On Small Trucks

As I’ve mentioned before, modern full-size pickups have become bloated family haulers rather than tools.  Yes, you can still buy a regular cab, long bed, bench seat F-150, but since it shares the body and frame of the family-friendly quad cab version, it’s too big for the occasional truck duty most people need.  Couple that with the car-buying public’s insatiable need for higher horsepower and tow ratings, and the end result is a category filled with lumbering brutes capable of pulling down a house but overkill for the monthly Home Depot run that most will actually see.  Take a look at the recent “torture test” that Ford did with the new Ecoboosted F-150.  While the ability of the truck to sustain that kind of abuse is impressive, it doesn’t really make me want to buy one – my weekends don’t involve logging or horse trailering.

Clearly, I need a smaller truck.  Once upon a time, virtually ever automaker had a small truck in their lineup, but those days are gone.  The Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma are really mid-sized trucks (and keep growing), and the Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger, and Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon are all either homely, antiquated, or both.  I was interested to see how the Indian-built Mahindra small pickup would do in the market, but it’s unspeakably ugly and has met importation issues.

The main problem is that automakers have learned that, much like small cars, it’s difficult to make a good small truck and make money with it.  Small vehicles aren’t really any cheaper to produce, and people, trained to believe bigger is better, see a small truck that is only a few thousand dollars less than a full-size truck and wonder why anyone would want a more maneuverable, more efficient truck when the big boy over there can drive through 24 inches of water, has 500 horsepower, and takes up three parking spaces – it clearly is the superior vehicle.

I’m in no position to blame people for wanting the biggest and most powerful vehicle available – God knows I’d like to put a twin-turbocharged 455 cubic inch V8 in my Tempest and buy stock in oil and tire companies – especially when the vehicle in question is your primary source of transportation.  It’s easy for me to compartmentalize a daily driver, a “fun” car, and a truck because I don’t need to have one vehicle be all three.  But I’d sure like it if somebody would build an attractive, useful small truck that would actually fit the needs of your average suburban family… hey, what’s this?  An attractive new small truck, available with an efficient-yet-torquey turbodiesel?  Great, except it’s only for sale in – Thailand.  Ugh.

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