The mid-size pickup truck market developed significant new momentum through 2015 benefitting from changing consumer demand for new options in family and recreational transportation beyond SUV or CUV choices. Demand was fueled at the beginning of the year with the arrival of completely new trucks from Chevrolet (Colorado) and GMC (Canyon) and then fueled again mid-year by the arrival of the new generation Tacoma lineup from Toyota.
Overall, the mid-size pickup truck segment – crew cabs in particular – had a very hot year finishing 2015 with sales at 356,886 units up 48.4 percent from 2014. The new features and increased capabilities of mid-size pickups along with price points under $40,000 – plus they fit in a garage – are making them an attractive alternative to more expensive full-size pickups when a SUV or CUV will not do.
Though lower fuel prices in 2015, that are expected to continue through 2016, are impacting sales of small SUV and CUV vehicles (consumers switching back to larger vehicles now that fuel costs are not as big a concern) – we do not see a measurable impact on demand for mid-size pickups in 2016.
Our 2016 forecast for the mid-size pickup truck segment calls for an increase between 75,000 and 100,000 units as the new Tacoma moves to full year of availability, the Duramax turbo diesel powertrain for Colorado and Canyon are now on lots, the addition of special editions from GM like the Colorado Z71 Trail Boss and the Denali version of Canyon and, around mid-year, the arrival of the new Honda Ridgeline.
Toyota Tacoma – 191,334 sold
Finishing 2015 very strong, the new Toyota Tacoma mid-size pickup truck continues to lead the segment in the U.S. by a very substantial margin with over 50 percent market share – selling 179,562 units driven by the arrival of their new generation Tacoma in the second half of 2015. In Canada, they sold another 11,772 Tacoma pickups – for a total of 191,334 trucks (up 15.9 percent from 2014) in North America.
Chevrolet Colorado – 89,525 sold
The new Chevrolet Colorado was the second best seller in the segment as expected with North American sales of 89,525 trucks. Chevrolet had expected a last quarter bump from arrival and delivery of the much-heralded Duramax turbo diesel powered versions, but held them back for resolution of what they called a ‘validation’ problem. They were released and began shipping the first of January. The addition of the diesels and the added special editions will spur sales in 2016.
Nissan Frontier – 66,439 sold
Nissan Frontier continues to struggle with the oldest platform in the segment. Sales in 2015 were actually pretty decent at 66,439 units in North America. Frontier has a very good reputation as a sport truck and boasts a strong following. Despite good efforts to keep it as feature fresh as possible, a new truck is the only answer to future viability in the segment. With all of the Nissan truck resources pretty much dedicated to a successful launch of the full Titan line up including the all-new Titan XD and Titan full-size trucks in 2016, we do not expect to see a new Frontier until mid or late 2017.
GMC Canyon – 34,717 sold
The brand sibling to the Colorado is the GMC Canyon which is the more muscular looking of the two. Sales were considerably less than those of Colorado with just 34,717 sold in North America. The Canyon had the same situation with their Duramax turbo diesel models as did the Colorado. Accordingly, with a Duramax turbo diesel and a Denali luxury version, sales can be expected to improve in 2016. Denali will attract wider attention due its name appeal. Consumers should respond to being able to own a GMC Denali Canyon at a very affordable price.
The Honda Ridgeline returns to the segment in mid-2016 with their new 2017 truck revealed at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Ridgeline had been a minor player in the segment in recent years. Sales averaged just 15,000 per year in its last three years before the old model was discontinued. There is a loyal following and as it becomes available, we can expect some pretty good sales volume as customers upgrade to the newest version.
The new 2017 Honda Ridgeline has some features and capability that make it stand out including: built on the new Pilot platform and availability of 4WD with the same Terrain Management featured in the new high-end Pilot Elite. Other notable items include the largest crew cab in the segment, 400 watt power inverter, dual directional tailgate, hidden lockable truck-bed trunk and available built-in truck bed entertainment system. Based on our first look, we think Ridgeline should attract new buyers in 2016.
The return of the Ford Ranger is rumored for 2017 or 2018. No concrete information on timing and specifics of the configuration Ford will make available has been released. Ford has a very capable ‘global’ Ranger in service worldwide, but there is some speculation they may opt for a North American market-focus truck.
Hyundai is reported to have committed to bringing their concept Hyundai Santa Cruz sport truck to production and make it available in North America, but no specifics are available at this writing.
Ram Brand from FCA has long been rumored to be considering a replacement for their departed Dakota truck. It would likely be built on a Fiat platform, but anything might be possible. We will be looking closely at the new five-year product plan that FCA is supposed to reveal at end of January to see if it is there.
In summary, despite dire forecasts that the market for mid-size trucks was dead a late as three years ago, it appears now to be a thriving market place. The new product availability coming on line to meet consumer demand for a multi-purpose crew cab truck that works hard, plays hard and drives really nice and costs near or under $40,000 plus fits in a garage is resonating with consumers.