Trucks & SUVs

Pickups Are Too Expensive: Bring Back Mini-Trucks

Yes, it’s true. Pickup trucks are getting way too expensive. Once they reached $50-grand it was time to stop and reflect. Trucks, even loaded trucks, were never as expensive as they’ve gotten to be today. It’s time to bring back an artificial inflation fighter; the mini-truck.

Chevy Luv Mini-Truck | GM
Chevy Luv Mini-Truck | GM

Converting $50,000 to 1970 comes out to almost $8,000. A 1970 Chevy half-ton Fleetside with a standard eight-foot bed was $2,692 in 1970. There you have it. Of course, manufacturers can’t make a profit off of small cars–they can’t inflate the prices the way they have done with pickups.

The time is now for the return of mini-trucks

1966 Datsun mini-truck | Nissan
1966 Datsun mini-truck | Nissan

A new Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup has an MSRP of $25,850. That price converts to $4,100 in 1970. In 1970 a new Datsun pickup retailed at $1,875, and nothing gets sold for retail in the car business. But can we say a new Tacoma is twice the price of a new Datsun pickup in 1970 price conversions? Yes, we can.

Chevy Luv mini-truck | GM
Chevy Luv mini-truck | GM

The point of this price mumbo jumbo is to show that we consumers are paying too much for pickups. And based on their 1970s counterparts we are paying over twice what they went for. Sometimes a lot more. Granted, the technology, quality, and level of appointments and materials are no comparison. These old trucks, as fondly as they are remembered, cannot compare. 

Ram 50 mini-truck
Ram 50 mini-truck | FCA

They were fairly stripped inside, with stomach pumps for power. Most were manual transmissions which hardly anyone knows how to drive today (though I will say those of us that do, yearn for some stick shift fun like the good old days). But, they did what they were supposed to do, and they did it admirably. There was no stigma in driving a mini-truck, it was honest transportation that hauled stuff. That’s more than you could say for an Eldorado of the era.

The EV pickup guys should shoot for mini-trucks

Early Datsun pickup truck | Nissan
Early Datsun pickup truck | Nissan

So, to Tesla, Rivian, Karma, and all of the other EV pickup companies that are shooting for the Ford F-150, your target is wrong. Electric vehicles are cheaper to build, it’s just a fact. We know why you’re gunning for the high-end of pickup truck nirvana. You can make more cha-cha. But, have you considered making less per truck but selling a lot more? Profit by volume is what we’re talking about here.

Toyota mini-truck | Toyota
Toyota mini-truck | Toyota

That’s where the mini-truck comes in. We see China poised to do what Japan once did in the 1960s. Japan was the first to flood our shores with inexpensive pickup trucks. Datsun, Toyota, Mitsubishi-they all gained their footing from the sales of cheap pickup trucks. China should do the same thing. 

China should do what Japan did in the 1960s

Datsun mini-truck | Nissan
Datsun mini-truck | Nissan

The difference between when Japan did it and today is that pickups are more popular than the 1960s. And the price for admission to the pickup truck club is much more proportionally than in the 1960s. So how much better are the conditions for a foreign manufacturer who is dying to get into the US market? For Chinese manufacturers, this should be a no-brainer.

Chevy Luv mini-truck | GM
Chevy Luv mini-truck | GM

Do we have a crystal ball? Hell no. If we did we’d be in Vegas and we’d be driving solid gold Raptors. But we’re not, on both points. So, we are laying out our case for a manufacturer to take the reins and make a mini-truck that is reasonably within the price of those minis of yore. It will be like printing money, we promise.

While the companies here are beating each other up for the small slice of the full-size electric truck market, you’ll be sliding in with something that we all want and need; a reasonably-priced pickup truck.

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