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The Toyota Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup truck segment for years. And the competition posed by various midsize pickup trucks like the Nissan Frontier has simply not measured up. However, with the introduction of the redesigned GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota reacted by updating the Tacoma accordingly.

The midsize truck resurgence also inspired Ford to reintroduce the Ranger. On November 28, 2018, the Jeep division of FCA US introduced the Jeep Gladiator at the 2018 LA Auto Show. The long-awaited Jeep Gladiator is a game-changer. As a well-received midsize pickup truck, its sales are gaining steady traction. But is it popular enough to threaten the beloved Tacoma?

The Toyota Tacoma is the most popular midsize truck for a reason

A Toyota Tacoma on display at an auto show
A Toyota Tacoma displayed at an auto show | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

For years the Toyota Tacoma has been the best selling among all compact and midsize pickup trucks. The Tacoma offers wide-ranging configurations from simple work trucks to quasi-luxury models and boulder-bashing off-roaders.

According to Consumer Reports, “the Tacoma pickup truck has traditionally been a reliable, but hard-riding workhorse.” Toyota redesigned the 2005 Tacoma trim with either a four-cylinder or V6 engine.

Toyota updated the Tacoma next in 2016, though Consumer Reports noted this wasn’t a full-fledged redesign. In truth, the Tacoma has changed little over the years. Safety features have been updated and small adjustments have been made, but the Tacoma remains largely the same.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given the success the truck has seen. Toyota clearly has a winning formula, so why try to mess with it?

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is the new kid on the block

Based on the Wrangler chassis, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator packs up the Wrangler bone-stock capability. The unique look of this truck combined with the legendary off-road performance of a Jeep has made it quite popular.

The Gladiator has a slightly higher starting price than the Tacoma, but offers more luxurious features. This midsize truck also offers a diesel engine, which is something the Tacoma can’t say.

Consumer Reports gave the 2020 Jeep Gladiator a perfect 5/5 reliability score. It is still early to make any long-term reliability assessments but this is a good sign for Jeep. To compete with the Tacoma long term, the Gladiator will need to prove it is dependable.

Sales numbers indicate the Jeep Gladiator is gaining ground

GoodCarBadCar reports that in Q3 2019, Toyota sold 65,756 Tacomas. In Q3 2020, sales plummeted by 10.4% to 58,920. On the contrary, the Gladiator’s Q3 2019 sales were 16,132. In Q3 2020, Gladiator sales increased by 37.4% to 22,163. Save for the Gladiator, the Ford Ranger also increased its sales from 26,211 in Q3 2020 to 28,350 in Q3 2020. 

The Tacoma outsold the Gladiator in Q3 of both 2019 and 2020, but the Gladiator’s exponentially increasing sales point to its quick-rising popularity. This could be the hype surround the much newer Gladiator or it could be the start of a new midsize truck king.

To be fair, neither midsize truck is perfect. But compared to the Tacoma, the Gladiator is fresher. Time will tell if it has what it takes, but Toyota would be wise to keep an eye on the Gladiator for the next few years.


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