The Small Pickup segment was the fastest growing segment in 2016 with a gain of 25.5%, but it has stabilized in the first quarter of 2017 with an improvement of just 2.6% to 98,668 sales. That still compares favorably against an overall market that’s slightly down, but the segment has clearly lost its mojo. And if we zoom in on the individual models, we see that all of the segment growth can be attributed to a single model: the all-new Honda Ridgeline, as all other players lose volume. Since Nissan still haven’t given any updates on the arrival of the next generation Frontier and the eagerly awaited Jeep Wrangler pickup is unlikely to make it to dealerships this year, the success of the segment depends on the return of the Ford Ranger later this year.
Highlights for Q1 2017:
- Unsurprisingly, the Toyota Tacoma holds on ot its dominating lead over its rivals, selling almost twice as well as the second-placed model. The Tacoma is still capacity constrained as the additional production line in its Mexican factory won’t be operable until later this year. Toyota has found itself a nice (and profitable) niche with the TRD models, appealing to the off-roading crowd and positioning the Tacoma as the sporty/capable choice of the segment.
- The Chevrolet Colorado and sister model GMC Canyon appear to have hit the peak of their potential at almost 30,000 sales combined, still much less than the Tacoma is able to deliver. But with both GM models slightly below their volume of Q1 2016, they’re unable to threaten the segment leader.
- After an unexpectedly strong showing last year, the Nissan Frontier loses more than a quarter of its volume. It’s the oldest model in the segment by a country mile, and as mentioned above, Nissan has not given a timeline for its successor which is already available in all other markets. A Mercedes-Benz version of that vehicle called X-Class is now officially ruled out for the US market too.
- Big winner this year is the redesigned Honda Ridgeline, going from a single unit in the first quarter of last year to outselling the Canyon this year. That still means it looks unlikely the new Ridgeline will beat the record 50,000 annual sales of its predecessor in 2006, though. Its unibody structure means it should be more practical and efficient than its rivals, in return for giving up some (mostly unused) off-roading and hauling capabilities, but the advantage is limited in real life, and obviously not enough to pull enough buyers from the more traditional models.
Note: Clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off