No One Is Buying Consumer Reports’ Favorite Truck

Critics love the Honda Ridgeline; it swept both Consumer Reports’ and Edmunds’ rankings. But some quarters’ sales data puts the Honda Ridgeline in last place. What gives? While the Ridgeline may be a marvel of modern engineering, it obviously doesn’t light up the majority of truck buyers.

Why critics love the Honda Ridgeline

Honda’s Ridgeline is a compact pickup truck with lightweight unibody construction, standard AWD, and independent rear suspension. It holds the road like a car and boasts Honda reliability.

The Ridgeline earned “number one midsize truck” from Edmunds. Edmunds added that the “Spacious crew cab is comfortable and handsomely finished.” The publication also swooned over the “versatile two-way tailgate and large lockable in-bed trunk.”

Honda’s Ridgeline won “top-rated pickup truck overall” from Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports went one step further, labeling the Ridgeline a “smart truck,” and concluding that “Honda has evolved the concept of the pickup.” Here’s what else Consumer Reports said:

“Clearly, it is the right truck for those who are honest about their true needs and aren’t afraid of thinking outside the box.”

Consumer Reports

If the Ridgeline is the perfect truck for buyers who are “honest about their true needs,” it should be selling like hotcakes, right? Wrong. Honda Ridgeline sales only account for a fraction of the truck market.

Ridgeline sales numbers don’t match critics’ praise

Dog sitting in the bed of a Honda Ridgeline pickup truck.
Dog in a pickup truck bed | Guilherme Stecanella via Unsplash

According to the Car Figures site, Ford has sold over 700,000 F-series trucks in the U.S., every year since 2005. In the same timeframe, General Motors has sold over 12 million full-size trucks and Ram has sold over six million pickups. In the mid-size market, Toyota has sold over three million Tacomas, and General Motors has sold over 1.5 million Colorados/Canyons.

Since 2005, Honda has only sold 454,642 Ridegelines–total.

So how did the reviewers at Consumer Reports and Edmunds get so out of sync with the majority of consumers?

The Honda Ridgeline doesn’t spark joy

White Honda Ridgeline driving down a road in the desert.
2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD) | Honda

Firstly, a truck for those who are “honest about their truck needs” may not exist. Most any driver “honest about their true needs” could probably buy a crossover SUV and a small utility trailer to get their “truck” jobs done. Buying a pickup truck is usually an emotional decision. (Folks in the trades, of course, are the major exception).

The Ridgeline’s towing and payload capacity lags far behind body-on-frame trucks, it lacks ground clearance and isn’t available with a rumbling V8. Sure, it can do some suburban truck things: picking up mulch in the spring or tailgating at a game.

But from a sales perspective, the most important thing a truck does is make you look back at it and smile every time you park it and walk away. Despite all the Honda Ridgeline‘s clever design, its sales numbers say it doesn’t spark this kind of joy.

How did automotive criticism miss the mark?

Honda Ridgeline pickup truck loaded with a roof rack and motorcycle.
2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD) | Honda

If Consumer Reports’ and Edmunds’ number one pickup truck was number two in sales, you could say they are in touch with consumers. But ranking the last-place truck as number one is an indicator of a serious disconnect. So what went wrong?

These publications rank every new vehicle in many helpful categories. These often include acceleration, handling, comfort/convenience, fuel economy, cargo capacity, and crash protection. And it’s incredibly valuable for potential car buyers to see ratings broken down in this way.

Consumer Reports and Edmunds then create an overall score, and even a ranking, based on a compilation of these scores. And this is where a problem arises: this system punishes purpose-built vehicles and rewards the multi-tools out there.

For example, the Ridgeline may just get an average rating in cargo, handling, and fuel economy. But it ends up with a higher overall score than a heavy-duty truck that excels at cargo and sacrifices both handling and fuel economy to do so.

To be blunt, no vehicle “excels” at everything. The ones that try end up being bland in every way. I hope these misleading rankings aren’t influencing the industry to build more DVD/VCR players that do everything poorly.

If you plan to buy a new vehicle, you shouldn’t settle for “average” ratings across the board–whatever car reviews are telling you. If you want incredible payload capacity and trailering, get a truck. If you want gnarly off-roading, buy a 4×4 SUV. And if you long for handling, look into a sportscar.

Curious about what else car critics get wrong? Read why Jeep Wrangler reviews are misleading.

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