Reels in the Competition
More than three years after its debut, the unconventional Honda Ridgeline may finally be proving it’s the shape of things to come. The Ridgeline is poised to become one of this year’s top 10 best-selling pickups in the U.S., overtaking some very well-known trucks in the process.
The Ridgeline has sold 13,656 units so far this year. That beats the 11,331 Dodge Dakota and 13,074 Chevrolet Avalanche pickups that have sold since Jan. 1. In April, the Ridgeline missed catching the Nissan Titan in year-to-date sales by just 106 units, and it outsold the Titan 4,158 to 2,407.
What’s remarkable is that each of those trucks soundly outsold the Ridgeline in 2007. Overall sales for that year were 50,702 for the Dakota, 55,550 for the Avalanche and 65,746 for the Titan. Honda sold 42,795 Ridgelines in 2007.
Despite its increases relative to competitors, overall Ridgeline sales are down this year from 2007 levels, as are most pickups. Ridgeline sales are down 7.2%, but that’s much less than the Avalanche’s 34% sales slide, the Dakota’s 42% drop and the Titan’s 42.7% decline.
So what's keeping Ridgeline sales relatively strong? Traditional truck buyers have shunned the Ridgeline's unibody construction, independent rear suspension and relatively limited towing and off-road capabilities.
It’s possible, with regular gas prices averaging almost $4.00 a gallon, that the perception of superior fuel economy is helping maintain Ridgeline sales. The V-6 powered Ridgeline is rated at 15/20 mpg city/highway, but the V-8 equipped Avalanche and Dakota each achieve 14/19 mpg. Could 1 mpg really make that much difference, or is it the fact that the Ridgeline breaks the 20-mpg barrier?
It's also likely that the Ridgeline is attracting first-time truck buyers who want a moderately capable pickup with Honda's reputation for quality. That factor would become even more of a selling point in the current tough economic and energy climate, making the Ridgeline look like a safe bet.
Other manufacturers have noticed the Ridgeline's steady sales volumes. The A-BAT concept Toyota brought to the 2008 Detroit auto show and GM’s GMC Denali XT concept that debuted at the Chicago show both use unibody construction and advanced propulsion systems meant to achieve optimal fuel economy.
Honda's second-generation 2009 Pilot crossover that just went on sale features improved fuel economy and usability versus the vehicle it replaces, though some say its exterior styling is a big step backward. Because the Ridgeline is based on the Pilot's platform, a Ridgeline 2.0 probably isn't too far behind. If Honda can deliver a few more mpg and offer buyers a wider range of configurations (like front- and all-wheel drive), we'll likely see the Ridgeline continue to climb the sales chart.