Why the Domestic Midsize Truck Segment Needs More Competition

Colorado

Source: Chevrolet

General Motors is firmly entrenched as the American leader of the midsize truck segment, the domestic vanguard against Toyota’s unstoppable Tacoma, with its hotselling GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado. Since the discontinuation of the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota, GM has had exclusive control of the American side of the segment in monopolistic fashion.

In today’s superfluous automotive industry where almost every manufacturer now has its own compact, midsize, and full-size SUV lineup, is it really too much to ask for a midsize pickup?

Despite attempts to make them more affordable, the reality is that the expense of a full-size truck is simply too much for many families to bear. The nearly $6,500 difference in the starting MSRP price between the Chevy Colorado and Silverado certainly reveals the disparity.

The gap widens if you opt for a crew cab Silverado with a $36,165 base price, as the majority of consumers will do. Regular and extended cab trucks aren’t exactly a practical purchase. Meanwhile the crew cab Colorado comes in more than $10,500 cheaper than the Silverado at $25,525. These certainly aren’t nickel and dime differences between the two models, and the argument could be made that more automakers should offer midsize trucks based on affordability alone.

Through July 2015, there have been 211,797 midsize trucks sold compared to a full-size segment that has already sold 1.2 million units. However, analysts predict the midsize market will increase to 300,000 in the near future with the potential for even more growth if more offerings become available. After all, the pickings are currently slim with only the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier to choose from.

In addition to lower prices, another advantage of midsize trucks is better fuel-efficiency. With more consumers forgoing sedans in favor of four-door trucks and SUVs, this becomes even more important. Since the beginning of the 21st century, trucks have evolved from work accessories to utilitarian family haulers. With the capability to comfortably seat four passengers in a vehicle with unmatched cargo space, what isn’t to like?

Canyon

Source: GMC

The greatly improved towing capacity of midsize trucks is another reason the segment is growing in popularity. With a class-leading 7,000-pound towing limit and a V6 fuel economy rating of 26 miles per gallon, the Colorado and Canyon offer far more than a bed with cargo space.

For the majority of consumers, these trucks will pull anything you need. Whether it’s a car on a trailer or a ski-boat to the lake, both pickups are more than capable of shouldering the load. As expected, their full-size siblings have a much higher 12,000 max towing capacity. But how many buyers actually pull that much weight with a Silverado or Sierra 1500? At that point you’re certainly approaching diesel territory with a different set of needs entirely.

Sadly, Ram CEO Bob Hegbloom has already squashed rumors of a fourth-generation Dakota after saying it would be too expensive to build. Hegbloom explained that in order for the Dakota to succeed, it would need to best the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s 29 mile-per-gallon highway fuel economy rating. In order to do so, it would require an abundance of cost-prohibitive fuel saving technology.

However, the return of the Ford Ranger sounds a little more promising. While it’s still offered in 180 global markets, the Ranger was discontinued stateside in 2012. When Ford announced it was moving Focus and C-Max production from the Michigan assembly plant after 2018 to make room for future product development, both the retired Ranger and Bronco are rumored to be in the discussion.

The popularity of the Canyon and Colorado begs the question why other U.S. automakers aren’t capitalizing on the increasing demand for midsize pickups? It definitely appears that both Ram and Ford are missing out on the chance to give GM some much needed competition and capitalize on a lucrative opportunity. Despite their respective reasons to remain on the sidelines, one thing is abundantly clear — America needs more midsize truck offerings.

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