According to the 2016 SEMA Pickup Report, there are 52 million pickups in the U.S. Nearly 13 million of which are 2010-2016 model years. This represents 20% of the passenger vehicles on the road and 26% of the overall market share of accessory and upgrade sales within the specialty equipment industry. Mid-size truck sales continue to bolster that number.
“The modern mid-size truck is the old full size,” said Ryan Osborne, Product Manager at FX Products. Decades of research and development have resulted in sophisticated platform advancements. No doubt the bar has been raised for mid-size trucks. They’ve certainly graduated since the first Dodge Dakota graced dealer lots back in 1987.
Although the once legendary Dakota has been as stagnant as swamp water, its mid-size competition is everything but. In fact, comparable truck brands like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline are going full throttle. Today’s mid-size trucks are ideal for everyday use, intermediate towing and enthusiast-based activities. They serve the general consumer and general contractor alike. Sustainability within the segment can be attributed to a variety of upgrades:
- Appealing aesthetics
- Progressive technology
- Improved safety feature ratings
- Enhanced performance
- Impressive on and off-road capabilities
- Better fuel economy
Mid-Size Truck Use
Traditionally mid-size owners seek recreational use with their vehicles, as opposed to professional or commercial. But the lines may begin to blur as upgraded mid-size features attempt to close the gap on full-size sticker shock. “The average price for a mid-size truck can be anywhere from $7,000-$10,000 less than a comparably equipped full-size one,” said Chris Crecelius of Hypertech. And that’s a conservative estimate.
Due to their performance capabilities and price, mid-sizers have made admirable headway within their own platform. They may even erode some market share from the heavy-duty players in the long term. It’s true, full-size trucks continue to be the beast of choice for large fleets and industry professionals with heavy-duty requirements.
“But we are seeing more and more utility companies and other businesses with fleets converting over to mid-size trucks to cut costs. It’s likely there could be a growing market for tool boxes, transfer tanks and other utility accessories for mid-size vehicles. Expect sales to be strong in the staple aftermarket product categories as well. These items includes custom floor liners, step bars, running boards and tonneau covers,” said Erich Ross, Regional Sales Manager at Keystone.
Shifting Demographics Leads to New Sales Potential
Retailers, restylers and installers see a correlation between the rising popularity of mid-size trucks and aftermarket sales potential. Keystone Category Manager Nick Geiger added, “The demographics of truck owners continue to shift. Those who have not owned trucks in the past are becoming truck owners. These mid-size trucks offer a more comparable solution for everyday driving, as opposed to full-size options.”
And the numbers speak volumes. “Compared to this same time in 2015, mid-sized trucks are reaching some of their highest sales in recent history, just as full-size truck sales begin to slow for the fall and winter months,” said Trucking Times. The magazine’s July/August data showed light-duty truck sales up 9.7% year to date, with the Toyota Tacoma leading the way in unit sales. But its rivals Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon posted the highest year to date percentage growth at 44.9%, 24.6% and 20.7% respectively.
Long-Term Success is Certain
Longevity is the end game, and the data presents a positive outlook. Fortunately, “the current mix of trucks we have in the market position us well to continue to adapt to whatever challenges the economy may throw at us down the line. The mid-size truck price points are more affordable now and the increased fuel economy is a big bonus, so consumers will always have an option for an affordable truck. Lower fuel costs, more aggressive appearance and an extensive line-up of aftermarket accessory options continue to give them an economical option to build the truck they desire,” said Geiger.
Seems like the future of the mid-size truck is bright, but nagging questions continue to loom. It will be interesting to see if the traditional domestic mid-size platform will ever embrace left-of-center additions like the Honda Ridgeline. Reproduction of the Ford Ranger and newly-developed concepts like the RAM Rampage shake things up. Time will tell if they simply steal market share from within or create a bigger space for everyone to play.