So far, 2016 has been par for the course for the pickup truck market. There’s been some fresh blood (the updated Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, and Nissan Titan), but really, it’s the same as it’s always been – or at least as it was in 2015. The Ford F-150 is still aluminum, still the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., and still beating the tar out of Chevy and Ram in the sales department. Midsize trucks are still here, but they still lag far behind their bigger brothers in the sales department. And aside from Honda, who sat out for a couple years, no new automaker has joined the fray in some time.
But that could all change very soon.
2017 is set to be the beginning of some big changes for pickups, and we don’t mean just because of the usual tech, safety, and powertrain changes. Most of the trucks on the market are due for either a major facelift or a full redesign by 2018, so we can expect to see the new faces of the best-selling vehicles in the country starting to pop up at next year’s auto shows. What’s more, the midsize segment is expected to swell with new models, and start partying like it’s 1989 all over again.
So while the 2017 models at your dealership might not look very different from the ’16s, in many ways they’ll likely be the last of an era. Change is in the wind, there’s no going back, and next year is looking like it’ll be the big transitional year as automakers look to bring the pickup truck into the next decade.
1. Aluminum is here to stay
Chevy and Ram (OK, mostly Chevy) have spent millions on a campaign targeting the Ford F-150 and it’s aluminum-intensive construction. That may play well for Chevy guys, but let’s be honest, it hasn’t put much of a dent in Ford sales. With over 500,000 sold through August, it doesn’t look like America’s best-seller is giving up its crown anytime soon. Plus, it’s funny, because with the rise in fuel economy standards (yes, that’s still happening despite low fuel prices), there are some big changes coming, because…
2. It’s the end of an era
Both the Chevy Silverado and Ram 1500 will be all-new for 2018, and Ford will give the F-150 a facelift. So get ready for Chevy and FCA to eat some serious crow next year, because after all that hemming and hawing, both will reportedly feature aluminum-intensive construction to reduce weight and increase fuel economy. If you want a steel-bodied full-size American truck, 2017 is likely your last year to buy a new one. After that, the aluminum era will have officially begun.
3. Big changes are coming
On top of Detroit’s big switch to the lighter stuff, the full-size market is beginning to see some fresh blood. The Nissan Titan line is all-new, and is the most competitive full-sizer that Nissan has ever fielded. What’s more, the Toyota Tundra is due for major updates, and could debut before 2017 is out. The market may still be dominated by the Americans, but the Japanese have now been in the market for a long time, they’ve learned the game, and they’re playing for keeps too.
4. Midsize makes a comeback
And while the full-size segment is getting more crowded, the midsize segment is about to go from virtually non-existent to jam-packed over the next year. After the Toyota Tacoma received a much needed design for 2016, the all-new Honda Ridgeline returned after a few year hiatus for 2017, critical darlings Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon are expected to arrive as 2018 models with full redesigns, and so is the aging Nissan Frontier. But Jeep is also entering the fray with a Wrangler-based pickup, and Ford is reviving the long-dormant Ranger nameplate. And that’s not all, because…
5. You can expect a dark horse to join the fray
Simply put, there’s big money to be made in truck sales. Volkswagen is searching to find new customers after the Dieselgate scandal, and could decide to bring its globally popular Amarok pickup our way. Hyundai has never sold a truck stateside, but has been teasing it for several years, most recently with the 2015 Santa Cruz concept. And Mercedes is reportedly working on a pickup model that will share its underpinnings with the aforementioned 2018 Frontier. Will all of these trucks be coming our way? Probably not. But would we be surprised if one of them gets the green light and starts making its way to America before 2017 is out? Not at all.