Recreational vehicle product planners, more than likely, already are developing products to accommodate a wave of smaller new pickups from several auto manufacturers.
“Big automakers, hunting for profit in a tough market, are trying to wake up the sleepy small-pickup business with a wave of new models,” the Sept. 30 edition of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. “General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG’s Dodge brand, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. all have launched or soon will launch new small pickups that, for starters, aren’t that small.
“Most of them will be aimed at consumers who aren’t looking for a stripped-down work tool, but rather a well-equipped lifestyle appliance that handles commuting to the office park five days a week and on the sixth day, hauls dirt bikes.”
According to the article, the burst of new models – some “tricked out” like Toyota Tacoma’s new “X-runner” with 18-inch wheels, a 240-hp engine and a sportscarlike suspension – represents a gamble that the compact pickup market’s more than 15-year slide will turn around or, at least stabilize.
Sales of compact pickups peaked in 1986 at 1.44 million vehicles, or 54% of all pickup truck sales. By 2003, sales had fallen to 741,993 vehicles a year, just 24% of all pickup sales.
As the Wall Street story said, some of the new small trucks are not all that small. The $13,000, V6-powered Toyota Tacoma, measuring 6 inches longer and 4 inches wider than the truck it replaces, boasts 1,500 more pounds of towing capacity.
Dodge’s new Dakota edges even closer to the full-size market with its first V8 engine. And the 2005 model of the Nissan Frontier, retailing from $14,050 to $28,230, is expected to have a bigger cabin and more power.