Taking Another Look at Smaller Pickups

Americans have a love/hate relationship with smaller pickups and the reason is rather obvious: they’re small, and Americans don’t like small. Americans like big, powerful vehicles, but for all their power, fullsize pickups are wildly impractical to drive on the road for non-commercial reasons, and Americans are also pragmatic. This sensibility should have resulted in recent years in a move toward smaller pickups which get an impressive amount of gas mileage for the power that they do have. Unfortunately for midsize pickup manufacturers, this hasn’t been the case, and midsize models represent only a tiny fraction of the segment, despite their many virtues.

 

The last time the segment saw any major gains was during the gas crisis of a few years back when the price of a gallon of gasoline rose to around $4 a gallon. Alongside growing concerns that gasoline was becoming too expensive, was a renewed interest in fuel efficiency. Around about this same time the market saw the introduction of hybrid and electrical vehicles that boasted ridiculous miles to the gallon and actually became more fuel efficient in the city. The one major issue for the smaller pickup market is that you’re not seeing a lot of city folk investing in massive vehicles like pickups. Still, fuel efficiency was a concern and thus the midsize models of pickups became a more alluring choice to those that were interested in buying pickups.

 

Since then, the price of gasoline has hovered around $2 a gallon and with less fear surrounding the price of gasoline comes a wider indifference to fuel efficiency. While you still won’t see many city folk investing in pickups, those that want to buy a pickup are buying fullsize pickups and not the runts of the litter.

 

“We are seeing some renewed interest in midsize pickups like the Nissan Frontier,” says one analyst from Anaheim. “But it’s tricky because the majority of these vehicles are being sold to families, so they need to feature a decent amount of cabin space, a nicer interior, and a choice of 2 or 4 doors. These vehicles appeal to folks that like the look and rugged appearance of a pickup over an SUV, and are better for the purposes of offroading than a crossover SUV will be, because unlike standard SUVs and trucks, crossovers are built on a unibody design of a car, which makes them more appealing to families, but useless to offroaders.”

 

“That in essence is the price paid for appealing to the largest car buying demographic out there - families. You end up losing what made the vehicle unique in the first place. But in the case of smaller pickups, you are still getting a pickup truck, just one with less power and better fuel economy. It hasn’t stopped being a pickup in the same way that crossovers have stopped being SUVs.”