The Honda Motor Company has a good reputation as an automaker. So why does the Honda Ridgeline struggle to gain acceptance in the midsize truck market? Although the first quarter of 2020 saw a nearly 17 percent increase in sales over the same period last year, Honda Ridgeline sales still lag behind its competition.
In fact, the only midsize truck with fewer sales than the Ridgeline is the GMC Canyon, which sold only half as many units in Q1 of 2020. Why is that?
The Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline has received solid reviews and recommendations in recent years, and people that own them are genuinely pleased with the truck. Kelly Blue Book uses a two-tier rating system noting their expert opinion as well as consumer opinions. The 2019 Ridgeline garnered a 4.3 of 5 stars in the expert rating and 4.7 from consumers.
Car and Driver recently wrapped up a 40,000-mile test of a 2019 Honda Ridgeline. Their summary of the test was that the Ridgeline proved “it’s a real truck.”
The 2020 Honda Ridgeline is available in several trim configurations ranging in MSRP from the front-wheel-drive version at just under $34,000 up to $43,520 for the all-wheel-drive Black Edition. They are all similarly equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine producing 262 lb-ft of torque and 280 hp and a 9-speed transmission.
The biggest difference between models is the 3,500-pound towing capacity of the front-wheel-drive model vs. 5,000 pounds when equipped with all-wheel drive.
Truck performance vs. sales performance
Looking at the truck’s specifications on paper and considering the reviews from experts and consumers, it would seem like the Ridgeline would be a welcome addition to most midsize truck buyers’ garages.
It seems this truck would be capable of carrying a weekend’s worth of gardening or DIY landscaping supplies and be right at home pulling fishing boats or even small ski boats to the lake on warm summer days. But in the midsize truck sales world, it takes more than truck performance to equal sales performance.
Struggling to sell
Since its introduction in March 2005, the Honda Ridgeline has struggled to sell in the U.S. midsize truck market. The Ridgeline had its best sales year to date in 2006 with 50,193 units sold – still far behind class-leading Toyota Tacoma’s 2006 sales figures of 178,351 units sold. Beginning in 2007, sales slipped steadily for the next nine years, dropping as low as 520 in 2015 but bouncing back during the 2016-2019 period to average just over 30,500 units per year.
An uptick in Ridgeline sales may provide hope for Honda’s midsize truck entrant, but they are still not on par with competitors such as Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, and Nissan Frontier. 2019 Ridgeline sales increased by 9 percent over 2018, capturing an additional 2,742 buyers.
This trend is continuing in the first quarter of 2020 with a 16.9 percent increase in sales over Q1 2019. By contrast, the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma suffered comparatively lower sales figures over the same period
While increasing percentages in successive years is a good trend, it’s important to put those sales into context with comparisons of actual units sold across the midsize truck sector. There’s no denying that Toyota Tacoma leads the midsize truck class in sales. In 2019 Toyota sold 248,801 Tacoma models, more than doubling second-place Chevrolet’s 122,304 Colorado sales.
Also beating out Ridgeline for market share was the Ford Ranger with 89,571 sales, Nissan Frontier with 72,369, and the newly introduced Jeep Gladiator with 40,047. Honda Ridgeline 2019 sales finished next to last with 33,334, barely beating out the GMC Canyon with 32,825 units sold.