Compact truck sales have fallen over 30 percent since 2000 when well
over 1 million units passed through the showrooms. Sales are so sluggish
that hardly any automaker wants to sell compact trucks. Now they strive
to offer midsize pickups.
Most observers had already been calling the Dodge Dakota a midsize truck,
even though it was always lumped in the compact truck category with the
Chevy S-10, GMC Sonoma, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger and
Mazda B-Series. But late last year, Chevy and GMC released their new fraternal
twins, the Colorado and Canyon, respectively, and the marketing machine
quickly started calling them midsize pickups.
year, Dodge will release an even bigger Dakota, and Toyota and Nissan
will introduce bigger Tacomas and Frontiers, all expected to promote midsize
as an adjective more often than compact.
offer numerous reasons for the slumping sales of small pickups: attractive
incentives on full-sized models and no real new product as manufacturers
focused on soaring SUV sales. However, with everyone but Ford introducing
a brand new truck in the compact category within a year, the competition
should be fierce and interesting. There isn’t as much brand loyalty
within the compact market as with the full-sized trucks. Here’s
where automakers often snag first-time buyers. Cross-shopping is the norm,
not the exception. The youth factor—accented up by the price and
fun factors—is always addressed by the automakers as evidenced by
Now that compact/midsize trucks can have sticker prices over $30,000,
the scary thought is that the manufacturers will forget the little guy.
Forget where compact trucks trace their roots. Forget about 4-cylinder
engines and hose-it-out interiors.
Hardly anyone buys regular cab pickups any more. Industry estimates place
the regular cab share of the compact market at under 10 percent. Nissan
doesn’t even offer a regular cab, and Dodge is expected to follow
suit with the next generation Dakota. Toyota has one model and few options
or special trim packages for it. Manufacturers generally keep regular
cabs around for low starting-price points and fleet orders. They rarely
release regular cab compact trucks to the press pool. Just as most shoppers
bypass them, most journalists aren’t interested in testing these
unpopular models, either.
But we wanted to test a bargain truck from the new GMC Canyon line. While
we couldn’t get the $16,000 truck that GMC advertises as a starting
point, maybe we could find out what a $20,000 truck offers. Luckily, there
was a 2-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder Extended Cab in the local press pool.
Although it had the upscale SLE trim, the truck had the standard Z85 suspension,
not the sporty Z71 that gives the truck a pre-runner attitude and increases