Small Trucks Trying to Make It Big

By: Chris Girard

Twenty years ago the small truck market was booming. There was a new segment of the market that was not being catered to. People who needed the functionality of a pickup truck but needed the fuel efficiency of a car. This is where the concept of small pickups came into play. However in recent years the small market has declined to increased fuel efficiency of full sized trucks. This leads many people to ask if the small truck market is dead.

In 1995 both Toyota and Ford redesigned their models for a small, compact and fuel efficient truck. What was the final result was the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. These models bath came equipped with a small four cylinder engine which was very fuel efficient. These trucks were mostly marketed to people who liked having the utility of a truck for projects around the home but needed to still have the ability to drive into large cities and travel far distances. 1996 was the first year that three other Truck makers played into the small truck market. Chevy and GMC released their small truck concepts the S-10 and Sonoma respectively. Dodge released its small yet powerful Dakota the same year. These tucks followed the same idea with a small cab, small six foot bed and a small engine for fuel efficiency.

Many people began to flock to these small trucks in the early 2000’s with gas prices beginning to skyrocket with no end in sight. Many manufactures did their best sales for small trucks between 2001 and 2004 selling nearly 3.4 million small trucks. Many people simply could not afford to keep fueling their gas guzzling 8 cylinder trucks and were willing to sacrifice some power for the saving in fuel costs.

Fast forward to today. Many of the original small trucks are no longer on the market. The Ford Ranger stopped production in 2011 along with the Dodge Dakota. Chevy and GMC also halted their productions in early 2008. This simply left Toyota as the sole producer of small trucks in the United States for nearly 3 years. Because of this Toyota has captured a large part of the market and gained a very loyal customer base. What has also happened in the last few years is that technology has changed drastically. Ford has a new engine line out in their full sized trucks which offer a V6 engine and get nearly the same amount of miles per gallon as the smaller 4 cylinder engines.

With Toyota owing a large share of the market other auto manufactures decided to get back into the ring. In late 2014 Chevy unveiled their newest redesigned truck the 2015 Chevy Colorado. The truck featured a much sportier look and got away from the stigma of an American designed truck with their boxy look and low ground clearance. The Colorado offers all of the luxuries and trim packages that are available on their full sized pickups. With the new release of Chevys truck the company is hoping to bring some life back to the fading small truck market.

7 thoughts on “Small Trucks Trying to Make It Big

  1. John Vallerand February 25, 2015 / 3:42 am

    This article was very interesting to read. It really gives you an idea of how the small truck was first launched and its original purpose. With all the technology over the past few years I can see were the need for small trucks has faded away, Now that they are introducing bigger trucks with smaller engine and better miles. I can also see why Toyota has decided to leave their Tacoma in production. I personally use to drive one and they are very reliable and fuel efficient for a truck. Chevys idea to bring a small pickup back to the American market is a good strategy to try and target a market that wants the luxury of an American made truck with good mileage and luxury features.


  2. Kevin McAtamney February 25, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    I agree with John regarding Chevy bringing back the small pickup truck. I strongly believe that there is a market for this kind of product. Personally, I’ve always wanted a pick up truck and with a 2 year old St. Bernard, you’d think it would make the most sense. Nevertheless, I fail to do research on the type of car that would be most feasible. Probaby the one negative that may have always swayed my decision was that a majority of these trucks eat up gas. Is it possible to create a fuel efficient truck with the luxurious features that many high-end 4 doors might have? Food for thought.


  3. Blake Boudreau February 25, 2015 / 8:11 pm

    This article is very interesting to me. For my summer job I drove 2004 Ford Ranger with a V6 engine around southern New Hampshire. This truck was easy to maneuver in tight spaces, great on gas mileage, and powerful enough to tow a trailer. I was very impressed with this small trucks abilities. To now hear that they stopped making this model in 2011 was shocking. Therefore, I could see myself driving a small truck Toyota in the future when I’m older because I will be able to use it for the dump, construction projects while still using it for day to day activities.


  4. Jim Butterworth February 25, 2015 / 11:49 pm

    In your blog, you mention the sales of small pickup trucks suffered as larger pickup trucks became more fuel efficient. This took away many possible consumers who would opt for the largest possible cargo capacity with most other things being equal, chiefly fuel consumption.
    Another market started to take off in the 1990’s, which also affected the small pickup market: the SUV market. In many cases, the internal storage space of the SUV would be enough for the occasional need of transporting larger objects, one of the selling points of the small pickup truck. In addition to cargo storage, the SUV can also transport more passengers than a small pickup truck.
    Therefore, while Toyota proves there is a market for small pickup trucks, I would argue it is a niche market tightly squeezed between larger fuel efficient pickup trucks and SUVs.


  5. Sam Ventresca March 3, 2015 / 2:58 am

    Very interesting topic for your blog post. Facts have shown the small truck industry has declined over the years. I believe the reason being is just like fashion there are fads in the motor vehicle world. One day people want a small truck the next day they want a larger truck or an SUV. Also the growth of technology will continue to change car models making hard for any one type of vehicle to survive.


  6. Zi Wang March 3, 2015 / 4:52 am

    According to read this article, I believe that technology is an important factor which boom a kind of old products again. As mentioned in the article, “Ford has a new engine line out in their full sized trucks which offer a V6 engine and get nearly the same amount of miles per gallon as the smaller 4 cylinder engines.” By using technology to update a sort of product can improve and increase the competitiveness of the products itself. At same time, companies can attract those loss of clients to come back again. Therefore, I think that companies should develop strongly the department of R&D to help them expend market.


  7. Katherine Durant April 27, 2015 / 11:06 pm

    For as long as I can remember my Dad has always driven a Toyota Tacoma. Even when his first one was recalled about 8 years old he went right back to it and purchased the newest one that had come out. When it comes to pick up trucks I don’t feel as though jacking them up with all these gadgets and gismos matters too much. For me at least, I know no matter how many bells and whistles the latest pick up truck is equipped with I won’t be buying one. Pick up trucks appeal to a certain type of person. I don’t think you see many people running out to buy one for fun. Even though these new features will be nice to have so they can compete amongst each other between brands, I don’t think it will change the customer base that currently exists.


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