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The Brands That Need Small Trucks


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By on July 1, 2021

Outside of the Bronco, Ford’s Maverick has gotten a lot of attention recently. And Hyundai’s Santa Cruz is upcoming — media drives are set for August.

This got me thinking — if we’re on the cusp of a return to truly “compact” trucks (well, relatively compact), which other brands should be getting in on the action, and soon?

There’s not much more preamble needed — the premise here is obvious. So let’s dive in, shall we?

  • Ram: This is the most obvious choice. Shall the Dakota return as a Maverick fighter? One can only hope. The rumor mill is mixed on this one — Car and Driver reported the return of the Dakota as a given early last year, but Motor1 reported in February that the project is now dead. That doesn’t mean C/D was peddling “fake news” — it’s possible the project was a go when the boys in Ann Arbor wrote it up and the kibosh came later. Nonetheless, Ram would seem an obvious choice for a true compact. The brand doesn’t even have a mid-size at the moment, though. So maybe Ram needs two models here — a Dakota as either the compact or mid-size, and a new nameplate filling the other gap.
  • Volkswagen: VW isn’t a logical target for a small truck in the U.S. market, but it has shown prototypes of the Tanoak and Tarok and has offered the Ranger-based Amarok in other markets. Could it finally build a Tanoak or Tarok?
  • Kia: Only because if Hyundai is doing it, it would be easy for the brand to borrow from its corporate sibling. How about the Kia San Jose?
  • Subaru: Bring back the Baja! Enough said.
  • Chevrolet/GMC: Leave it to GM to bring back the Syclone name, but on a mainstream compact pickup as opposed to a high-performance street machine. Given how the Malibu and Impala names most recently adorned boring mainstream sedans, with nary an SS to be found, I’d bet my meager savings on this.
  • Porsche: Just checking to see if you’re still reading. Though I wouldn’t put it past them.
  • Land Rover: Imagine a small truck that borrows styling and the base engine from the Defender and costs $49,995 at base and $85K well-equipped. I bet you JLR execs already are. Hey, celebs would totally buy that thing.
  • Mercedes-Benz: Don’t laugh, the brand has the X-Class elsewhere.
  • Nissan: A return to the roots with a sub-Frontier-sized pick ’em up?
  • Toyota: A truck tinier than Tacoma with Toyota badging and reliability could be a hot seller.
  • Honda: The Ridgeline is so damn good. A smaller Ridgeline could be fantastic.

Obviously, not all of these hypothetical trucks are likely to ever see the light of day. I’d put money on any OEM that has existing product — or even concepts — but not much. Automakers tend to be risk-averse these days, given how much a new-car design and launch costs. That said, if the Maverick and Santa Cruz set dealerships on fire, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other automakers scramble to follow suit.

[Image: Hyundai]

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