Archive for March, 2014

The Return Of The Compact Pickup Truck—Sort Of

Ford Ranger Wildtrak 3.2 TDCi 4×4

In the 1990s, Chevrolet S10s, Ford Rangers, Dodge Dakotas and Toyota Tacomas dominated the small pickup truck segment at Chapman Arizona. They were quirky entrants in a testosterone fueled masculinity contest, yet sold reasonably well, carving a niche for themselves in the expanding automotive world.

Sadly, all good fairy tales do end, and as those compact trucks of yesteryear had to battle against more stringent safety standards and customer expectations, they grew in size, almost eclipsing their half-ton, full-sized brothers. The S10 disappeared in 2004. The Ranger became an expatriate in 2011. The Tacoma is still around, but on life support. It’s had too much reconstructive surgery to even resemble its former self.

However, General Motors has recently ventured into the small-truck segment again and there will be new trucks for sale soon.

General Motors

GM is wading back into the kiddie pool of pickup trucks with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. While they are larger than their predecessors, they’re bigger brothers have only grown in size, opening up a market for the Canyon, Colorado and other small trucks.

GM is positioning these trucks as lifestyle items. They can’t haul a fifth wheel, but they can tow jet skis and small boats. Only time will tell if GM made the right decision in entering the small-truck market.

Ford

Ford hasn’t really left the compact-truck segment. It just stopped selling the Ranger in the U.S. It’s grown in size, almost comparable to the current F-150. However, the Ranger is a unique beast. It has a rabid following that is clamoring for Ford to bring the truck back home. It’s updated design, which the previous U.S. version never received—it went virtually unchanged for more than a decade—is clear evidence that Ford can still create a stylish and capable small truck that people want. Have no doubt that Ford is watching the Canyon and Colorado closely to see if it’s the right time to introduce America to the new Ranger.

Ram

Currently, Ram and its Chrysler/Fiat overlords have no plans to resurrect the Dakota right now. Ram is coming off a slew of awards for its 1500 pickup truck, so Chrysler/Fiat could be planning to capitalize on that momentum in the form of something small, yet versatile. Again, the success of the Canyon and Colorado will play precursors to what Ram and Ford do in the market. Only time will tell.