Manufacturers love to create splashy concept cars to grab attention. Sometimes it's simply to allow designers and engineers a chance to stretch themselves; sometimes it's to take a poke at the competition; still other times, it's to gauge interest about a real project that's on their product planning sheets.
There's no question the automakers will continue to use this strategy to grab (or hog) as much of the spotlight as possible, especially at the four big auto shows, but sometimes we like to take a few guesses as to which companies are more likely than others to make this kind of leap in the truck segment.
Yes, we know that right now there are more companies deciding to leave the pickup truck segment than looking to join it, but you can bet there are quite a few serious (albeit contentious) product planning meetings going on right now that include forward-looking pickup crossovers in an attempt to take advantage of the changing boundaries and definitions.
In particular, we've heard about two heated meetings recently (one Michigan based, one Japan based) where the subject of the next pickup almost got out of hand. Again, from what we've heard from direct and indirect sources, the biggest issues for designers and engineers are the coming 2016 and 2025 federal emissions regulations, which practically forces them to think long and hard about moving away from traditional body-on-frame trucks and taking a closer look at products like the Honda Ridgeline or even the long-gone Subaru Baja.
Every once and awhile we like to let one of our favorite creative geniuses put a few sketches together to see what he comes up with. All we said to him was, "What if Hyundai/Kia wanted to do a pickup truck?" Then we stood back. No doubt they'd have to do something drastic to separate themselves from the other players in the midsize segment, but clearly product designer Mark Stehrenberger thinks the Koreans might do very well creating a sporty crossover pickup truck with heavy emphasis on bed flexibility and easy access.
As clever as the bed of the truck might be (and we think there is plenty of room for someone to make a much smarter, more versatile pickup bed — so far the RamBox is the best effort we've seen), we understand four full-size doors will be a requirement for some. Popular concepts like Toyota's A-BAT, GMC's Denali XT and Dodge's Rampage look like their time may be coming. Our guess is we'll see something from one of the "outside" players in the next couple of auto show seasons. Lord knows the big players seem to be quite comfortable sticking to their cautious strategy, so maybe someone else can come up with a better Avalanche or Explorer Sport Trac.