The 2021 sales numbers for medium-sized pickup trucks are in and there is little we found surprising. Yet, we can now say that the Toyota Tacoma is so dominant that it nearly matches the sales totals of the next three competitors combined.
What’s especially incredible about Toyota’s accomplishment is that the current Tacoma is largely based on the second-generation model that emerged in 2005. Yes, Toyota did update the truck in 2016 and called it the third generation, but the bones remained the same. That has not hurt sales though as customers continue to enable the Tacoma to claim status as a runaway best-seller.
Another interesting point about the Tacoma is that it outsells the full-size Toyota Tundra by approximately a 3-to-1 margin. The Tundra has struggled mightily, but Toyota isn’t giving up. Consequently, an all-new Tundra has arrived and has brought a hybrid variant with it.
2021 Midsize Pickup Truck Sales
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Continued Market Growth
What’s especially interesting about the segment is that sales still managed to increase year-over-year, despite a global semiconductor chip shortage. Sales reached 636,168 for the year, up from 608,275 in 2020 for a 4.58-percent increase.
Also, sales are far above the 500,000-unit limit certain experts had predicted for the segment less than a decade earlier. But that was before the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon returned, the Honda Ridgeline and Jeep Gladiator arrived on the scene, and the Ford Ranger made a reprise. We believe there is room for growth, although new and compact models such as the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz may siphon some sales.
Midsize Pickup Trends
We’re bullish on the segment and are forecasting continued growth as the midsize market evolves. We expect the first plug-in hybrid to arrive no later than 2024 with the Jeep Gladiator. But there are new models in the offing and one or two competitors may do it first.
Here’s a breakdown of the seven models:
The Toyota Tacoma shows no signs of letting up. That said, the Tacoma is aged, and it is time for an all-new one. We expect that model to arrive in 2023 or 2024 as it follows the Tundra with an overhaul. Likewise, the Tacoma will be a small-scale version of the Tundra, sharing its platform and other key parts. We expect Toyota will opt for a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as standard with a hybrid variant following.
Ford left the U.S. market in 2012, then returned seven years later. The current model is heavily based on the 2012 global Ranger version, therefore it is time for a new one. We believe a new Ranger will arrive for the 2023 model year and feature the same turbo four and 10-speed automatic transmission. The difference, though, will be an electrified model, perhaps a PHEV.
The Jeep Gladiator is doing what it needs to do to complement the Jeep Wrangler. An aforementioned PHEV version will be a difference-maker and may help the brand keep annual sales above 100,000 units. Expect what Jeep does to the Wrangler to filter down to the Gladiator.
Electrified GM Trucks
GM has two models in the segment, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Sales for the Colorado were clobbered in 2021, while the Canyon registered a modest drop. Light changes in 2021, follow a Trail Boss edition for the Colorado in 2022. We suppose GM will maintain the status quo for the duo, perhaps releasing a “next-generation” model along the lines of the Tacoma by 2025. We also assume one or both models may gain an all-electric variant as GM flexes its Ultium architecture muscles.
The Nissan Frontier was once a strong second-place competitor to the Toyota Tacoma. In recent years sales have slowed, but a new Frontier model is now in place. Sales rose by nearly 65 percent on the heels of the new model. We imagine 100,000 annual units is within reach, although it may take two years to cross that.
There is an outlier in the mix and that is the Honda Ridgeline. It is the only car-based model in the segment, although the Maverick and Santa Cruz can claim the same. The Ridgeline was modified in 2021 and continues to appeal to Honda lovers and all others who need nearly all the capabilities of a traditional pickup truck, save for spirited rock climbing.
Is there a peak to the midsize pickup truck market coming? Likely, eventually, but just when you believe that there is a limit, the manufacturers come up with something else to confound the experts.
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