Critics Warn Midsize Pickup Growth Not Sustainable

V-6 Group Fuel 2 II

Clearly the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have injected some adrenaline into the midsize pickup truck segment and, so far, have provided all the segment players with growing sales, but for how long and at what cost?

According to Automotive News, as many as 16 percent Colorado or Canyon buyers switched from their full-size counterparts (the Silverado or Sierra 1500). Some experts think this potentially means that Colorado and Canyon sales eventually could take a big bite out of GM's half-ton pickup profits as well as flatten sales.

Some analysts believe the next few years will be good for midsize pickups due in large part the two new players and a revitalized Toyota Tacoma coming out by the end of this year, but over the next five years things could be different. Even if the midsize truck segment grows, some are saying it won't get bigger than 500,000 units, meaning less than 3 percent of the entire automotive industry — not even close to the segment's heyday in the late 1980s at around 9 percent.

The biggest unknown question with the new downsized GM twins is how badly they'll steal sales from their profitable full-size big brothers; however, for now Chevy and GMC sales of midsize and full-size pickups are growing steadily. Toyota benefits from this revitalization because the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra are built in the same San Antonio plant, so production can be shifted one way or the other quickly and efficiently. The Colorado and Canyon are built in a dedicated plant running three shifts.

Meanwhile companies like Hyundai and Ram are playing with the idea of stepping into the smaller pickup category, and Honda will be coming to market with an all-new Ridgeline next year. photos by Evan Sears




There has always been a certain amount of cross-shopping between midsize and full-size pickups, so that is nothing to be concerned about. But if you look at sales since Colorado and Canyon were introduced, you see strong demand, strong prices and very low dealer inventories. Customers are reentering the segment from all sorts of GM and non-GM vehicles, just as we predicted.

If you talk to dealers or customers, there is NO sign that this is a flash in the pan. This is one of those times where the analysts and reporters need to get out from behind their computer screens and talk to customers and dealers in the real world.

The question I have is, how many people went in to look at the Colorado/Canyon and left in a Silverado/Sierra? I'd bet that happens more often than a 1/2 ton guy goes to a mid-sizer.

I tend to think that the midsize segment can't keep this up. Why? Because what we see now is mostly pent up demand.

I believe that moreso in the U.S. than anywhere else, you have a large number of buyers who could just as easily buy a full-size than a mid-sized. Obviously, after the Ranger when out of production, most had little choice and with only the Taco and Frontier to choose from, I'm sure many just went with a full-size instead.

Now that there are more options, people who really want a mid-size are happy to buy one. What about those who could go for any truck?

My point is, if the mid-sized trucks have a price point that's too close to the full-sized trucks, then it reduces the reasons for people to buy one, except for those who really want a mid-size specifically.

When the Ranger was being sold, it's advantage is that it was cheap and reliable. I'm sure the new mid-size trucks are reliable, but are they also cheap? If not, then there is not a pressing reason for people to buy them.

Everybody is or can be a critic or analyst, lots of them on here...

If gas prices go up and they increase the fuel mileage on mid-size trucks they will hold their own or increase sales for years.

No doubt there is pent up demand, but keep in mind that the midsize segment ran at 800,000+ units a year for 20 years. That is a lot of customers, and a LOT of pend up demand.

Also, when you talk to customers in traditional midsize truck markets like southern California or the northeast US, it becomes clear that there are a lot of people for whom a midsize pickup is their preferred vehicle, due to narrower roads, denser traffic, smaller parking spaces, etc.

How you feel about midsize trucks depends a lot on where you live and where you drive.

And this is before the 2.8l Duramax comes out. Maybe I'm dreaming, but it seems to me that there will be serious pent-up demand for a small, powerful, efficient diesel. 30+ highway mpg (presumably) in a four-wheel drive pickup that can tow 7,000 lbs? That sounds like a winning combination to me.

Tom Wilkinson, since you're here - let me put you on the spot: I've read that the baby Duramax will only be available in the Colorado, not the Canyon. Is that true? Why? (Perhaps it's an Autotrac issue?) C'mon, Tom - break some news for us here on PUTC!

The 2.8L Duramax will be available in both Colorado and Canyon this fall.

Oh, very nice. Guess you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet after all, huh? Thanks for answering the question. I appreciate it.

Once again, zero mention of the Nissan Frontier, which basically OWNED the midsize truck shootout when you add price to the mix and consider that it's been on the market for ten years.

If the Nissan truck is that good NOW, imagine what they could do with an all-new truck. They would destroy the segment in every category. press. No mention of them. What gives? Is this a GM sponsored site?

GM makes garbage. Everybody knows that. The only reason the Colorado is selling is because it's the "new thing".

Waiting for the 2.8 Diesel. Will be interesting to see if it cracks 30 mpg. It doesn't have an 8 speed like the Ram but it's a bit lighter wieght

I have a friend that bought a new Frontier after owning the old Colorado. The reason was because GM did not offer a mid size pickup. His new Frontier is far from the new Colorado and he regrets not waiting for the new GM twins. I rode in his Frontier last weekend and I understand now why he wished he would have waited to buy. Right now there is nothing even close to the new GM twins and with the new diesel coming they will only jump farther a head of the competition. Someone who says GM trucks are junk only speak with their envy for what GM offers today.

I worked for a year at a Nissan Dealer selling. Selling cars was a MISERABLE experience that came with an intense education being able to go behind the scenes... About 30ish% of the time we could talk someone who had come in for a Frontier into a Titan... For anyone with any kind of sense or willingness to listen it so often made a lot of sense. Often with incentives the difference in price between comparably equipped Titans and Frontiers got under 2K. So for someone looking for a truck and trucks are supposed to be all about CAPABILITY for $1,500ish more and 3MPG less you can buy a truck that will haul a ton, let 4X8 sheets of plywood lay flat, tow almost 10K, has a ton more interior space (in EVERY dimension), sits higher, has a V8 (more torque and HP)... For many it was a no brainer. If Nissan had offered a modern Fullsize half ton with an efficient V6 (like Ford and Fiat do and GM almost does) I don't think the Frontier would have sold much at all unless they were to widen differences in price and efficiency between the models.

Interesting different points of views.I like this.So now for mine opinion,I believe that the midsize market will continue to grow especially when a diesel is offered.Just as powerful as most fullsize in the dept.of torque,and extremely fuel efficient.In my area just yesterday at the gas station I normally go to:Reg gas-$2.75.9 Diesel-$2.73.9.
And for those that WANT a diesel,do your homework and select the one that will fill your needs.For those that DON'T want a diesel,nothing to get in a huff about.

Nissan makes a good truck but its light years behind the GM Twins. This article was written by MiKe Levine, Ford Gurls are just jealous that GM has the guts to enter this market and win.

Ford wont bring back the Ranger, they only care about the sales numbers, everyone knows GM owns the sales in relation to individual owners, only the fleet sales help Furd win anything.

Honda ridgeline should not be mentioned In any truck conversation

I think that when the next recession hits, and it won't be long, price will be more of a factor. the mid size will sell good at this time as loong as it is cheaper. Little truck is better than no truck. Full size trucks will suffer the next time because they are so expensive. Let's see what happens in the next recession.

I do think the critics are incorrect.

The growth in the midsize market will be sustained. This is due to the difference between the new midsizers and the old midsizers. It's almost chalk and cheese.

Even considering how well on paper the Frontier and Taco performed against the Colorado in the recent PUTC test, the test really didn't highlight the added refinement of these newer vehicles.

The newer midsizers like the Colorado Canyon have never been closer to a full size in overall performance, refinement and capability. They are on par in most instances in these areas. When the diesel Colorado Canyon is release you will see a much larger void develop between the midsizer and full size in FE.

What hasn't been mentioned is how the cost of a full size will have a greater degree of difference between the two segments in the future.

Also, the US is changing, many baby boomers will be buying smaller vehicles in retirement, you have the demographic changes and society is becoming more urban. Over the past couple of decades pickups overall have been in decline. The current lift in pickup sales isn't due to the drop in fuel prices, the biggest impetus is the cheap and extended loans.

When and if midsize sales decline in the future you will also see a decline in full size sales.

I do see a brighter future for the midsize pickup in the US.

GM makes garbage. Everybody knows that. The only reason the Colorado is selling is because it's the "new thing".

Posted by: WXman |

My 08 Silverado had no serious issues after all these years,so NO GM doesn't make garbage..
Only reason I won't buy CC is bc I like V 8 power,,and my 4.8 v8
hauls any load with ease and still gets 26 mpg..

"Some analysts believe the next few years will be good for midsize pickups "

A rise in Fuel prices could also boost the numbers sold

Mr. Ford, bring back a Ranger sized truck. These large midsized trucks just don't cut it.

I would anticipate that Ford will need to bring in the Ranger sooner or later when the sales of the new midsizers become to large for Ford to ignore.

As nice as the new F-150 is it will not be the sales hit Ford expect. If Ford doesn't bring in in the global Ranger it will drop permanently into second or even behind FCA's Ram in total numbers.

I am a baby boomer within a few years of retirement and I don't plan on upsizing my truck. I don't care if a larger truck is the same price or more I want a vehicle that is easier to park and maneuver in. Those leasing or taking 60 month or more loans might be more interested in getting a larger truck for a little more monthly payments especially if a low or no interest rate is offered. Bigger is not always better especially if you don't want or need bigger. If you really want a truck that is cheaper per pound buy a 3/4 to 1 ton truck.

I agree with some posters in here. Midsize trucks are going for price of full size and fullsize is getting out of reach. I would still buy stripped down full size over fully loaded midsize.

@Robert Ryan

A boost in fuel prices, you say?

Actually, Robert, the current softness in energy prices is the only factor keeping the US out of full scale recession. Yesterday's announcement by the Federal Reserve underscores the foregoing.

A rise in fuel prices would be grim for American automakers, companies that are just recovering from the 2007-09 calamity.

Be careful what you wish for.

If you really want a truck that is cheaper per pound buy a 3/4 to 1 ton truck.

@Jeff S

Are you kidding? The cost of operating and maintaining the HD trucks is much higher than a half ton or midsize by any sensible measure.

Wish in one hand and take a crap in the other and see which one fills up first Tom Wilkinson.

You can preach your garbage all you want but the fact is the midsize market in the USA is a small market and nothing you say is going to change that.

As nice as the new F-150 is it will not be the sales hit Ford expect. If Ford doesn't bring in in the global Ranger it will drop permanently into second or even behind FCA's Ram in total numbers.

Posted by: Big Al from Oz | Apr 28, 2015 5:44:27 PM

Ford is already having to discount the 2015 F150 to sell them. They are not the runaway hit everyone was making them out to be.

" Only reason I won't buy CC is bc I like V 8 power,,and my 4.8 v8
hauls any load with ease and still gets 26 mpg.."

No it doesn't. Maybe 26 mpg going 50 on a flat highway when it's 65f and clear out. But everyone knows realistically v8 full size trucks average about 15-17 mpg on a tank. These midsize trucks are averaging easily in the low to mid 20s.

Where are they the same price????

Can you provide a link displaying all of the recommended retail prices of pickups, as you will find midsizers are in fact cheaper.

Due to the current production capacity in Wentzville and the demand for the Colorado, I do think their pricing will remain high.

Unlike Ford's new aluminium pickup were handouts are becoming quite large for a new release.

Is Ford's 2015 production already outstripping demand?

Ford hasn't even rolled out completely 2 plants out of 4 for the aluminium F-150.

Ford needs this truck to sell. It is a major investment.

Sell your Ford shares.

For the past 30 years the consumer has adapted to smaller cars where the smaller trucks fit in.
More people want an American Brand, Chevy, Dodge, Ford where they reject the Toyota and Nissan just because its an import.
The consumer has enough common sense to know a 5500 lb full size truck will never get good gas mileage no matter what modification is made to the engine.
The majority pickup owners don't haul or tow anything where a smaller pickup would suit their needs for occasional light hauling.
The smaller pickup costs less, better MPG, better resale value, easy to drive and park and is better suited to be a one family vehicle that replaces the family car or SUV.
SUV sales are HOT! The smaller pickup is an alterative to the SUV.

I strongly believe the Colorado and Canyon sales are going to take off, and Ford and Dodge is making a big mistake by not making a similar truck.
GM was brilliant making the Colorado-Canyon

I intend to buy one as soon as dealers in my area get them in and not hold the one or two they do have hostage with full sticker price.

All you people never never take in account the local dealers where you can have the greatest truck made at the best price but when you're treated like crap after the sale you'll never own that brand again.
The reputation of the local dealer makes or breaks that vehicle.
(That's the reason why I will never own a Toyota)

There are now pictures of the next generation Silverado possibly having the front end look of the Colorado. Although the size of the Colorado probably won't work for me, I do like the look of it. I would love to see the style in full size form. I think it would be a great seller.

The midsized pretender truck is for a niche/fringe market. Young single men and old men (both with money to burn and little or no real truck work to be done). Its not that big nor demanding a market (in America). The PROOF is in the fact that everyone but Toy/Nis abandoned it. Even further proof was that Toy/Nis did almost nothing to improve their offerings in this market for almost a decade. Now GM returns with modern offerings and its considered huge/exciting/relevant. It isn't. Its still the same people buying the same thing for the same silly reasons they always have... "I don't need a full size truck." Translation "I don't have enough work to justify a real truck but I like to sit up high, say I have a truck, like having 4x4, and have some money to burn." The PROBLEMS are the mid sized pretender truck DOESNT deliver on capability or mileage or price when compared to the modern V6 full size 1/2 ton. For that small truck to deliver REAL advantages it would have to get smaller/cheaper and less capable than the current pretend truck offerings. CHEAPER!!! No way in hell the manufacturers will do that. LESS CAPABLE? Well the market is already happy to buy these little trucks that don't really do real work anyway. SMALLLER? Have you seen how much fatter we are now? Come on. So the answer is a diesel Colorado? That's at least as powerful at the Titan Atlas but sips fuel like a Tesla, and accelerates from stop light to stop light like a F35 fighter and has an integrated movie theater with wifi and surround for the price of say my daddy's 1981 Toyota Tercel.... Yes please make this fantasy pretend truck. While you are it keep improving the V6 full size half tons that for 1 or 2 MPG difference do everything the pretender trucks do and ALOT more for 2 or 3K more.

Clint these midsize ra are real body in frame trucks with leaf springs. Most of them have payloads well over 1/2 ton and greater the full size trucks fro 10 years ago.

Despite the arguments by the majority of commenters on blog postings like this, the simple fact is that it's far, FAR too early to draw conclusions either way. Such commentary may be correct--five years down the road, but right now there's a lot of pent-up demand for trucks that simply aren't as ungainly as the current batch of full-sizers.

Where will the mid-sizers level out? If I had to guess, maybe about 20-25% of full-size sales. They're enough smaller that some people will move into them either from full size or from mid-sized CUVs. With GM already reporting that 16% of Canyon/Colorado sales coming from GM full sized trucks, and maybe 20% overall from such full-sized models of all brands, this means that the CUV/SUV market is taking at least some of the hit, though their numbers are so high and from so many OEMs that the few Canyon/Colorado sales so far haven't made a visible impact--yet.

Meanwhile, we have no idea how the Hyundai concept will sell. Most here insist that it will be a non-starter; a statement with which I disagree. What's news (well, partially) is that Ram is looking at the same game, though when you consider it's already selling a compact based on the Fiat Strada in Mexico, it seems they're getting a feel of real world potential with a badge-engineered version where Hyundai is starting from scratch. I expect if the Ram 700 turns out reasonably popular in Mexico, they'll at least test-market it here in the US for a year or two. The compact size does have its advantages, despite all the whining from the full-size contingent. We'll just have to see if those advantages are enough to draw new customers.

@ Tom Wilkinson at Chevy,

When are dealers going to get enough Colorado / Canyons on their lots, that consumers are not paying premium to buy this great new truck.

"A boost in fuel prices, you say?
Actually, Robert, the current softness in energy prices is the only factor keeping the US out of full scale recession. Yesterday's announcement by the Federal Reserve underscores the foregoing.
A rise in fuel prices would be grim for American automakers, companies that are just recovering from the 2007-09 calamity.
Be careful what you wish for."

Not wishing, Papa. Observing. Over the last 6 months fuel prices on average have risen almost 50¢ per gallon--the rise is at about the same rate as last year's drop in prices, meaning we'll almost certainly be over $3.00 per gallon by September and back to $3.50 by March of next year, if not sooner. As a result, people buying full sized trucks now may be regretting their decision by this time next year.

And diesel is not really any bargain. For all that it offers great torque and nice fuel economy, the price of diesel--especially where I live--is already hovering dangerously close to that $3/gallon mark and I've seen it as high as $3.25 in places--50¢ higher than premium unleaded.

The oil companies have also noted that people are buying a lot more premium right now and automakers are specifying either mid-grade or premium for most of their engines. In fact, there are some hints that we'll be losing the 87octane fuels, making the 89 into 'regular', the 91 'mid-grade' and 93 'premium. I'm already seeing this at the pump as one station displays 87, 90 and 93 at the pumps. I can attest that my '08 Wrangler runs better on 89 compared to 87 and my Fiat 500 is a blinkin' go-kart on 91, yet the fill up in the 500 is less than $25 from the fuel-low warning light. Fuel economy on both vehicles is better as well with the higher-grade fuels.

So I can guarantee that fuel prices will continue to rise and I don't doubt they will rise above previous averages and stay there. I expect, however, that the rise will remain slow so that consumers don't realize how much more they're paying per tank than they did even the month before.

Clint, you couldn't be more wrong.

"Translation 'I don't have enough work to justify a real truck but I like to sit up high, say I have a truck, like having 4x4, and have some money to burn.'"

Ok, maybe you're partially right. But only barely.
*I don't have enough work to justify a (full sized) truck... -- True. But just because it's not full sized doesn't mean it's not a "real" truck. Look up the definition of truck some time.
*... but I like to sit up high ... -- False. For some, it's a hassle to have to climb into a truck and the trucks have become so tall they can't even get into some parking garages.
* ... say I have a truck, ... -- False. If I have to "say I have a truck" then I would have a serious problem. Such a statement is boasting and implies that the boaster falls short elsewhere.
* ... like having 4x4... -- You don't need a truck to have 4x4, but that capability is definitely advantageous in bad weather and for driving off of paved roads.
* ... and have some money to burn. -- That far more accurately describes full-sized truck owners vs mid-sized and compacts. When the MSRP of a full-sized truck averages over $7K over their mid-sized equivalents, the 'money to burn' becomes self evident. BUT, doesn't that make you wonder why the OEMs then discount their full-sized trucks by that much or more? Or do you like being scammed? Even with those 'big discounts', pickup trucks are the most profitable type of vehicle built--realizing between 50% and 75% profit AFTER discounts. The fact that the mid-sized trucks are selling pretty much at MSRP right now despite the big-truck discounts should tell you that where price is not a factor, size is. Even one commenter above claiming he worked at a Nissan dealership pointed out that only about 30% of truck buyers could be up-sold into the Titan when they came in for the Frontier.

So your argument is just plain bunk. Full sized trucks do have their purposes, but they have simply out-grown their primary market and verge too closely towards medium-duty trucks. The only difference between the ¾ and 1-ton trucks and their medium-duty cousins is really the fact that the medium duty trucks are built for WORK, and lack all the 'rolling office' comfort you find in their light-duty cousins. Mid-sized and compact trucks offer much more realistic convenience and capability for the homeowner.

The naysayers sound just like what we heard in the mid-70's, that Americans will never buy these little Japanese trucks. This was right before Toyota, Datsun, and Mazda stole a huge chunk of the market.

I bought my one year old Frontier with crew cab, 4x4, factory spray in bed liner, tow package, sat radio, dual zone climate controls, bed extender, the whole nine yards for under $26K. Show me a full size truck with the same features for under $26 K and less than 12,000 miles on the odometer. Around here they don't exist.

A new one is about $1,500 more but sacrifices the features I wanted to add.

A full size from ANY brand with these features is going to run about $5,000 to $8,000 more. That's why people buy mid size trucks.

And, the Titan gets miserable fuel economy. So does the Tundra. Both in the real world are sub-15 MPG trucks. That's another reason people buy midsize trucks.

What kills me is all the Toyota fan boys on this site. The Taco finished bottom of the pack in every category in the midsize truck shootout. It's old, weak, and has had numerous recalls including frames rusting completely through. It's got cheap interior that feels like you're sitting in a car instead of a truck and it's got drum brakes from 1949 on the rear. You all need to get over the Toyota hype. It's dead and gone. It's over.

Where are they the same price????
Can you provide a link displaying all of the recommended retail prices of pickups, as you will find midsizers are in fact cheaper.

Posted by: Big Al from Oz | Apr 28, 2015 10:33:51 PM

I said fully loaded midsizer and stripped down full size.
Fully loaded Colorado Z71 is 43250 USD.
That's not cheap in my books.
I can buy stripped down RAM 2500 for that kind of money.

Ford Ranger of the Russian polar expedition

Why bring that into the discussion?

It a chalk and cheese comparison.

A fully blinged BMW 3 Series can cost over $60 000.

But, I can get a larger stripped Camry for less than that.

Same argument. Why would you buy the BMW? The Camry is a cheaper vehicle.

Using your argument you will drive a Hyundai Getz. It cheaper than the HD Ram.

I'm sure ford will build the ranger as good as this.

@papa jim--If your argument is bigger is better then the bigger truck you have the better. I don't subscribe to that view unless you need a 3/4 to one ton truck. You can also buy an HD for not a lot more. You can still buy a full size half ton if you want to and I can still buy a midsize truck. It is nice to have choice unless you are the type of person who wants to tell others what to buy.

@big al--the last smaller truck that papa jim owned was a late 80's S-10 so his mindset is that the new Colorado is similar to his old S-10.

@cicka--You can also buy hamburger paddies for less if you buy it by the case at the warehouse store is less than organic grass fed beef. Some prefer less but a higher quality. You need to compare a Platinum F-150 to a fully loaded Canyon to get a better idea of price and features.

To say the Ridgeline is not a "true" truck is to show ignorance towards the vehicle. My Ridgeline carried enough mesquite to keep me through many bbqs. It also drove through my ranch (which is very sandy) with no issues. Not to mention a few trips to the beach. The truck never had an issue. Plus it rode VERY smoothly and comfortably. And the in-bed trunk/ice chest is one of the best features ever in a truck.
Not everyone needs a full size truck (I've also owned an F-150), and not everyone has the same taste. Before you judge a vehicle, try driving it.
p.s. Try a Subaru Baja. Even more fun!

I can buy a new 2015 Ram 4x4 crew with the Eco-Diesel for $42K where a similar 2015 F-150 crew with a 2.7 Eco-Boost is $45K

@Jeff S do you and Big Al have some kind of "special" relationship?

Odd how this story does not mention the low conquest rate. It has been around 10% with no break down of which vehicles are being traded in.
I suspect many buyers were waiting for a truly up to date small truck that did not have a Japanese badge on it. I bet that the 84% that bought it were former SUV/CUV owners or were considering those vehicles.

@papa jim--No, I don't always agree with Big Al. I believe that trucks like cars can offer different sizes. I don't want to force my preferences on others nor do I want anyone to force their preferences on me. I am not going to criticize your truck and call it POS like you did mine but then I am not trying to prove something. As for "special relationship" you must be homophobic since you have brought it up on more than one occasion. I am not gay and I will not bash gays even though I might not approve of their lifestyle. What other people do is none of my business as long as they don't interfere with my business. Maybe you need to mind your own business.

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