Could Midsize Pickup Success Spawn Subcompacts?

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It's no secret that more midsize pickups are coming soon and possibly even more over the next decade, especially if fuel prices climb and vehicle prices stay down. But what if that segment grows to sales levels similar to what we had more than 10 years ago (somewhere near 1 million units)? Sure, there are quite a few obstacles that need to be tackled before we get there, but what if … .

One thing is for sure, if midsize pickups get the type of sales traction in the U.S. that they have on continents like Australia, Africa, and South America, you can bet the truck segment underneath them — in both physical size and price — will get some attention and exploration as well. The next big segment could be the subcompact or micro pickup.

Toyota recently released its newest-generation Kei truck, the Pixis (pictured above). Toyota's subsidiary, Daihatsu also makes a version called the Hijet, as does Subaru with the Sambar—all off the same design and platform. These micro, cab-forward, three-cylinder flatbed work vehicles are hugely popular in Asia because of their no-nonsense capabilities, easy maintenance and affordability. The newest base-model Pixis/Hijet/Sambar will likely start well less than $7,500 and offer van, crew-cab and dump-truck versions.

If you're looking for something more performance driven, Mini may be the one to offer something sporty and pintsized. After all, Team Mini has won the Dakar Rally for three years running. The Mini concept vehicle (pictured below) is called the Paceman Adventurer and could be offered as a backcountry specialty package by BMW, but we'd expect it would be pricey.

Other companies that used to offer subcompact pickup trucks, like Nissan (then called Datsun) and Honda, could likely make something work in short order, but they would need proof of interest. However, the biggest question is how to make a small pickup in the volumes (whether in the U.S. or worldwide) that could justify the significant investment in safety testing, production facilities and labor. That's why the most likely entry for this new vehicle class is likely to come from China or India, where corporate governmental support is structured differently and a relatively inexpensive labor pool exists.

Companies like Mahindra and Tata have been tinkering with the idea of selling small, inexpensive trucks in the U.S. for quite a while now, but the biggest hurdles seem to be our strict safety regulations, a viable distribution network and how to keep production costs down.

Regardless of the hurdles, we could see quite a bit more pickup truck diversity in the next 10 years if the right players can put the right mix of product quality, work-truck capability and safety features in a single inexpensive package. Sure, that's a tall order but one we think U.S. customers would embrace.

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The Daihatsu type trucks are to small to comfortably fit a full size adult in or be safe, i have driven one of these around the base i work at, needless to say they have almost all been replace with sideby side atvs , they where not reliable , and we where constantly canablizing them to keep them opperational, no thank you.

The Mini is a cool concept annd will only come to market if they can keep alot of the parts the same as convertible, there will not be a market for this as a work vehicle as it will be to small and expensive, and with the small bed your better off getting the tradtional mini and floding down the back seat when you need to carry big things.

On the import from India or China thats a posability if they are willing to meet crash and emissions requirments, then maybe the cheap scape crowd will buy them , but i thnk the decline in the current offerings sales number speak for them selves in this segment.

"... strict safety regulations, a viable distribution network..." Not to mention wide-enough appeal.

... Not to mention chicken tax...

...and if it were up to the america-hating, pole-smoking, leftist rats, they'd outlaw every truck that's 1/2 ton and bigger and only allow trucks like the MINI in the 2nd and 3rd pictures above, it's green, cute, stylish and fuel efficient.

Cluck cluck.

@ Mark Williams: Mahindra already tried to do business here.They had a dealership network in place,the dealers had to put big bucks up front to get the franchise.Then mahindra screwed them royal and ended up NOT bring in their small compact diesel pickups.They would be the LAST company I would ever buy anything from.

I have seen mini trucks but they are strictly for off road applications like maintenance vehicles at the zoo or parks. Some people collect mini trucks. I don't think we have to worry about these being on the road because of the safety standards would make them much larger and more expensive. Denver Mike doesn't have to get excited about these threatening his full size F-150s.

I hope so! I want my small Ranger to come back.

I'm not at all interested in mid size trucks because they are too close to the size and price of a full-size, but i'd be first in line to buy a good subcompact truck if it was reliable, somewhat efficient, capable off-road AND on-road, and a price of $20,000 or so. It would be a great addition to my farm. I want honda powersports to build it. I have considered a side by side many times, but for the price they just aren't useful enough, especially since I'd have to load it up and tow it around everywhere. I basically just need something a little bigger than a side by side but with a good bed for hauling around 1000 pounds, and street-legal. The way side by sides are getting bigger and bigger, I'm hopeful it will happen. That mini cooper truck looks to be just the right size and I think someone could build something like that (although I don't want it to come from mini cooper) for about $20,000. I'm imagining something simpler/more durable than that mini with better ground clearance and 4wd.

Bring back the North America Ford Ranger. Skip the Global T6 Ranger. All the NA Ranger needs to kick a** is to restore the interior back to the 1997 offerings + the norms. of today- nav. , sirrius/XM, more plush seats and a choice of Ecoboost 4 cylinder or a modern V6. Don't bother with 4 super cab varient, just the two door supercab. I have owned two , the first got traded in with 350k- ran perfect. The current one has 250k and is ready for 100 more no problem. If they were still built I would buy one on the spot.

Oddly enough I do believe we are going to see a resurgence of midsize and even mini trucks.

This isn't only going to be in the US, but global as Mark has described. But, do not fear full size trucks will be around for a while yet.

Another odd thing I'm noticing is the US does lag in some areas of motor vehicle culture. It used to be a leader in areas of pickups, SUVs, 4x4s, etc. This is the bygone era that many allude to on this and hope is the future in the US.

Just look at where most pickups are developed globally. Is it the US? No. Even Australia has 5 pickups designs under it's belt on the road and being manufactured 'as we speak'.

This can be illustrated by the 'new' crop of Class 2 global pickups. They now come with a SUV class interior in design and comfort. As I've stated many times you have yet to receive these new pickups.

Even Nissan in the US is apparently going to release the D23 Frontier in a D20/22 size. Smaller than the current D40.

As I've stated I do like full size trucks, or for that matter any truck, even the Kei trucks.

At the end of the day size does matter. Even with the current move to reduce the weight of a full size pickup to gain better FE a similar midsizer will weigh less if it was constructed the same. A Kei truck will weigh less again.

What is worrying is the route the US has taken with CAFE. This will make full size trucks more expensive than needed.

I believe a pickup similar in size to a global midsizer with a V8 or turbo V6 would be awesome as well. But, you can't beat a diesel in a truck.

A Tata from India powered by a two litre turbo diesel. Nice. Not designed in Australia, only the concept.

Tunland from China, powered by Cummins $25k on the road.

Actyon from Korea, get 40mpg on the highway.

As long as manufacturers don't have to come up with a bunch of dedicated systems that are truck specific it can work.

So for example, if a manufacturer offers an FWD truck that utilizes something like the drivetrain from a base Camry or base Accord, they've already got the whole thing in place. The rest is easy.

On the other hand if they are talking about an all new north/south engine block for the rear drive setup, they probably don't have the resources in place--long lead times, lost opportunity.

@Big al
foton builds the most unreliable tractors i have ever seen in upstate ny. things just break on them. they look like good tractors but parts availability non existent and what good is a tractor that breaks. Mahindra was trying for the small compact trucks but the us gov't sorta just kept making up rules for them and wouldnt allow them to come in. that was 5 years ago maybe longer. now i know one korean company that i like DAEDONG they are just like mahindra but they seem to be a bit better at manufacturing and emmisions. plus they build some of there own engines unlike other big manufactureres. i own a kioti tractor so i am biased but after owning the machine and talking with other businesses with same exact machine VS johndeere its hands down better and 20 thousand dollars less! AMAZING how that works. I know this isnt about tracotrs, but the whole small compact truck market seems to be built by these tractor companies. even names like mitsubishi are involved in tractor production, and they have compact trucks. I am sure you know these things but i am excited to see this brought back from the dead! having a small 3cyl turbo diesel in mini pickup would be very interesting. i have heard of a 1000cc triple from, a zero turn being put in a car and 100 mpg was achieved but that was just hearsay from lawnsite forum years ago.

@Brandon D
I don't know of the issue with Foton Tractors. I have yet to see one. I do know of Mahindra Tractors.

But, I would suspect the Foton tractors are not connected to the pickup truck. It's like stating Cummins is crap, because you don't like Ram.

Samsung make Renault cars, but are their smart phones bad?

Fiat used to make great tractors, but sh!t cars.

i can understand your point. i dont agree with you though. I think mahindra builds mahindra, daedong builds deadong, foton builds foton. the foton tractors in the usa are a stepping stone for them to bring the truck over. thats what mahindra tried to do, they sell the most tractors worldwide. daedong is establishing themselves here under a different name but it is well known that daedong has the same tractors that i have which are kioti, labeled with their own name. the tractor market emissions arent as stringent as automobiles but they just made all new models for tier 4 emmisions. all of them have regen cycles now. these are stepping stones for them to bring trucks over. i hope the foton is better than what they have shown here! it looks very nice and i would buy one. the aluminum bed is perfect for me! my JRT phantom would love being in that cab with me.

Does it work this time???

Loved the old mini trucks, S-10, Ranger, LUV, Courier, and my favorite the Datsun/Nissan 720 with the Z-24 engine.
I would get another in a heart beat. Full size is great for big jobs, but a new updated mini truck would be a fun daily driver for me.

Yep, sort of like GM or Ford or any major US company.

What relationship is there between the differing groups? In some cases they are like totally different companies.

I do understand how you are connecting the name of a company to all of its products. But, that is your choice, I do tend to look a little deeper. Especially when investing substantial amounts of money.

Just because I don't like one aspect of a company doesn't mean other aspects of the company are the same.

Oh, the above comment was for the guy whose name is causing issues;)

The Kei trucks are more micro than mini.

Drop the chicken tax and work on unified global safety standards or at least an agreement on the equivalency of standards.

That would open up markets for niche products.

Another dead end road. Compact and subcompact trucks are a very small market and when you try to sell to many products in that limited market no one makes any money.

This has been tried over and over and each time it just did not pan out, there is zero reason to believe that it will turn out any differently this time around.

Exactly right. Wanna know why Americans don't have small cramped trucks? We don't have to.

I find the small pick crowd very amusing, for their limited use of pick up trucks a small utility trailer behind a cross over would suite their needs better. or renting a truck from uhaul occasionally. I saw and old rusted out dautsun yesterday parked next to the mid 2000s VW Bug, and it made the bug look big. most of the size increase on the smaller trucks is due to saftey systems that where added vehicles need to withstand side and front impacts roll overs etc. that little datsun looked like a motercycle would win in an accident with it. Also any pickup howing to sell well here would have to offer a crew cab variant, with 60% of new pickups being sold are crew cabs thats what fleets and people are buying.

This American LOVES smaller trucks. Bring 'em back. Yet size does matter if you want to do work. As much as I plan to one day own a classic Austin Mini pickup, it won't be able to do much aside from looking cool. I'm hoping for a 4x4 Jeep PU with a diesel and 6 1/2' bed to work the remote parts of our farmland and pull a compact ag tractor and implement. I don't need a porky $50K rig to do that. When the backhoe needs moving, I pay a rollback $100. That happens every couple years.

Today's trucks have become too fat and do too little work. And if it has less than a 6' bed, it's not a truck. It's a suburban-lifestyle SUV aping truck style.

We own four trucks. Our '68 C-10 Chevy looks puny compared to the fat-boy wagons out there, and yet that sort of vehicle from America played a huge part in the lives of owners who worked their trucks after WW II.

Bring us back some simpler, smaller trucks for those who actually do work, eh? Start by scrapping the darn Chicken Tax.

I think it'd be great to see the S-10, Ranger or even a modernized LUV truck return. Drove quite a few of all of those and I'd bet with today's technology they'd make a great small utility vehicle. Many of my friends had them as their first vehicles as well. They don't have to have tons of options available - just make a good, reliable utility vehicle that gets good mileage with an affordable price. I know there's lots of fanboys out there for each manufacturer, but I believe any of the big three are extremely capable of making such a vehicle, as well as the foreign makes. Shame we'll likely never see such a thing though (hope I'm wrong).

@Ram Big Horn 1500 - I see these quite commonly in Canada and that is because we don't have a 25 year used vehicle import cut-off. Most guys buying these trucks are outdoorsmen who don't want to spend 20K on an offroad only UTV.

That is a filthy disgusting lie that Americans don't want small trucks. Why did Americans buy so many of them between the 1970's and just up until a few years ago? Ever stop to consider maybe there was an actual market for it? The reason compact trucks aren't sold is 1. because of safety standards that force you into a larger vehicle and 2. because the cost of production has gone so high that automakers can only sell expensive trucks, not stripped down little boxes anymore. Add to that that American (or rather North American) trucks are protected by import taxes, it's pretty much a "you buy what we make" scenario.

The next decade is going to be idiotic just like the mid-late 70's. Big trucks with more junk than anybody wants with puny "efficient" engines, and overpriced as all hell, forcing casual truck buyers to buy a commercial van or give up on freedom of choice. I don't want a $70k 3/4-ton truck, I don't even want one for half that. Mark my words, trucks will become a luxury to price the average consumer out of the market.

At BD Your right brother. Trucks are going to be so expensive in the coming years that unless there is 15,000 off the hood, they are going to be stuck with them. The big number of sales has it its peak. I'm going to buy older trucks in the future and fix them up. I worked on machinery til I retired and for 5,000 I can go thru an older truck and make like new. I'm not going to pay big money for a lot of electronics I don't want. Rebuilding an old truck will be fun and keep me busy. Might fix some to flip if I have enough time.


The Chevy LUV's best year was just over one hundred thousand trucks sold and after that year sales bottomed out and went no where but down from that point.

Compact pickup trucks have never reached the sales figures that full size pickup reach.

It is a small market, always has been always will be.

@ fredtheman,

What you are talking about has a name, its called "resurrecting the dead".

Many years ago when I worked for U-Haul in one of their repair shops maintaining their fleet of trucks they tried the rebuild the truck deal, it did not work.

They termed it resurrecting the dead and found it was cheaper to replace the old worn out trucks over rebuilding them.

Pretty much sums up the lack of buyers in this class of truck.

Do you think the LUV was the only small truck sold in the US?


The Luv?

Actually the Ford Courier and the little Mitzubishi were pretty small too. They only sold because Ford and Chrysler had the dealer networks in place and people thought that FE was a big deal.

By 1982 the gas prices had settled down, the economy was in the crapper and demand for micro trucks died.

It has not returned. Mazda and Mitzubishi built good little trucks but they were too small for the average grown man to sit in for long.

I had an 85 Mitsubishi Mighty Max with an 8 foot long bed and 4 speed manual for over 14 years. It was a good little truck but it was bigger than these micro trucks. My Mitsubishi was the exact same length as my extended cab 99 S-10 just more bed since it was a regular cab. Weight wise the Mitsubishi was about 2,500 lbs (it was a uni body with rails underneath) and the S-10 is about 4,200 lbs with a full frame. I doubt they will ever make a true compact truck like the Mighty Max again because of the safety equipment.

@ Ram Big Horn 1500 Businesses get tax breaks and other benefits the average joe doesn't get. I know on machinery they lose the depreciation tax at 10 years so they would buy new machines even when they didn't need them. Companies also buy their new trucks for fleet prices and get them cheaper than you and I can buy them for, therefore it's cheaper for them to just replace them with new. I can replace a lot of parts for 5,000 since I do almost all my own work.

All you have to do is look at how the sub-compact SUV/CUV has exploded in the US market to realize that a similarly-sized pickup truck would do remarkably well. Of course, there are those who refuse to believe ANYONE would want something smaller than full-sized. Much less something even smaller than mid-sized.

@RoadWhale--My wife just got an email from the Honda dealer we bought our CRV from new last year offering an even trade in exchange for a 2015 Pilot or 2015 Crosstour. It seems there is more demand for the compact CRV and less demand for the bigger Pilots and Crosstours. We are not interested in the trade but I thought I would share that with you because it gives support to your above remarks.

I had a Dakota, I mostly just used it to get to work and back, only a few times ever used it to move pieces of furniture. We always ended up taking the minivan camping and fishing. It never went off road once. If I bought another new truck, it would have to be something a lot lighter and more fuel efficient. I miss the Dakota, but I don't miss putting gas in it. Right now, there is nothing tugging at my heartstrings to get me to a dealership.

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