It looked for a few years like compact and mid-size pickups were a dying breed. But with the introduction of an all-new Chevrolet Colorado this next year, along with a new-generation Honda Ridgeline under development, this portion of the truck market could rebound.
That’s right; Honda today confirmed that it’s developing a next-generation Ridgeline pickup, and released a cryptic sketch (profile only) that shows its design direction.
From it, we can see that the next-generation Ridgeline will become more rounded in front, while preserving the rest of its proportions. The angle of the windshield also looks steeper as well. And together with the technologies that Honda has already installed, like Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), we could expect quite the mileage improvement—especially if Honda decides to deploy its hybrid technology here.
The automaker also revealed that the current Alabama-built Ridgeline will go out of production mid-2014.
Replacement due by late 2015
According to the automaker, an all-new version of the Ridgeline will debut “within two years”—which suggests that the model might be absent from the lineup for a full year or more. Thus, we expect the Ridgeline to reappear as a 2016 model.
The Ridgeline, with its relatively economical but strong 3.5-liter V-6, has always been better suited to hauling snowmobiles or jet skis than trailer-towing—although it has been able to tow up to 5,000 pounds in some versions. And even though its cargo bed is quite small, the versatile tailgate, which can flip up, down, or to the side, has always been an asset—as have the available bed extender and various tie-downs.
While Honda topped 50,000 sales for the RIdgeline in its second year, and nearly that annually over its first several model years, the company has failed to even move 20,000 of these trucks a year since 2009—leading to speculation that the model might be discontinued after its current product cycle.
Compact trucks poised for a resurgence?
Those Ridgeline sales numbers are a tiny fraction of the more than 700,000 Ford F-150 models and more than 600,000 full-size GM pickups (Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra) that will be sold this year. The Toyota Tacoma remains the best-selling compact to mid-size truck, and it’s only on track to hit about 160,000 sales this calendar year.
Ford exited the compact-truck market in 2012 with the discontinuation of its Ranger, after it had gone nearly 20 years without a major update. A decade ago, Ford was still selling more than 200,000 Rangers annually.
Without bowing too much to speculation, we anticipate that the 2016 Honda Ridgeline won’t stray significantly from its current formula—and its current, proven part frame, part unibody structure—although it could become far more refined thanks to the new 2015 Honda Pilot that’s on the way.
Now if only Ford would step back in with a U.S. version of its current global-market Ranger, we’d have quite the range of possibilities.
Will Honda provide a further preview—in concept form—at the upcoming Detroit or Chicago auto shows? No word yet, but we'll update you on the latest Honda Ridgeline news as more details emerge.
(c) 2013, High Gear Media.