Midsize pickups enter truck war for the long haul
Lower prices, versatility are convincing an array of buyers to make the switch
If you use a pickup for your construction job, you probably drive a full-size truck, such as a Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado or Ram 1500.
But if your truck needs revolve around hauling camping gear or a mountain bike, then a midsize truck might be the right fit.
Lucky for you, that’s where the next front in the truck wars is unfolding.
Toyota has dominated this space with its Tacoma, but the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier and two General Motors offerings – the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon – are battling as well. Ford’s absence from this segment in recent years helps explain how GM was able to top Ford in pickup market share, even though Ford has the best-selling vehicle in the F-series.
And this front is about to get more crowded. In a few weeks, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will unveil a truck designed to highlight the lifestyle aspect of truck ownership, with a vehicle that can work and play hard for the active-living crowd.
The Jeep Scrambler – that’s the name widely expected to be attached to the new truck – is set to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Spy shots, including images caught by the USA TODAY Network’s Detroit Free Press on a metro Detroit highway last month, show what appears to be a Wrangler with a truck bed, which makes sense because the truck is being built in Toledo, Ohio, just like the iconic SUV.
The Scrambler, assuming that’s what it’s called, will join the 2019 Ford Ranger, rolling off the line now at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne in expanding the midsize segment. But that’s not expected to be the end of the story, in part because midsize truck sales are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2023, according to David Franklin, a vehicle forecast analyst for LMC Automotive.
“It’s likely that we’ll see a midsize pickup out of Tesla at some point, and startups like (Michigan-based) Rivian will be adding to the mix. It wouldn’t be outlandish to see more familiar faces join the segment as well. With pickups selling the way they are, it makes sense that (automakers) want to have a balanced portfolio available for buyers,” Franklin said.
The midsize sales spree has been increasing yearly. In 2014, the number of new registrations for midsize trucks previously mentioned was just under 251,000. Last year, the number stood at more than 453,000. Through August of this year, it was more than 348,000. Toyota Tacoma led the charge, with more than 200,000 new registrations in 2017.
Price can be a factor, but midsize trucks offer a range of cost and ability to suit different types of customers, with prices from the mid $20,000s to the low $40,000s, said Sheldon Brown, chief engineer for the Tacoma.
“As full-sized trucks have become more and more expensive, smaller trucks offer a better value.”
Sam Fiorani Vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions.
The Toyota Tacoma, top, faces competition from the upcoming Ford Ranger, left, and possibly the new Jeep Scrambler.