As fuel prices and oil company profits continue to soar, many of us have to rethink our vehicle choices. Unless we need them to tow or carry heavy loads, economics have dictated we get a smaller, more fuel-efficient truck. After perusing the Internet and visiting dealerships, one fact is clear: Except for two models, there are no more mini-trucks, or compact trucks as they're called today.
The two models left are, of course, the Ford Ranger and Mazda B-series truck. These two pickups carry the compact truck banner into the 21st century and carry it well. Unfortunately, there are rumors that 2009 will be the last model year for these fine trucks. What a mistake! Redesign them? Yes. Keep them compact size? Yes! Discontinue them? NO!
My first mini-truck was a '75 Toyota Hilux (pronounced hee'lux). This truck returned fairly good fuel economy and became a project later on in its life. My next mini-truck was a '77 Datsun King Cab that returned excellent fuel economy and had lots of interior room for a mini-truck. In the '80s and '90s, I owned a number of Toyota 4x4 pickups. All of these trucks were easy to maneuver and delivered respectable mileage. I really enjoyed all my small trucks.
Toyota, Nissan, Dodge, Mitsubishi, and GM have grown their compact trucks into the midsize segment. Midsize trucks have almost as much room as their fullsize siblings and get just a little better fuel economy. In my opinion, these porky midsize trucks are too large to be small and too small to be large and do nothing as well as the compact and fullsize trucks do
In the light of our current and probably future fuel dilemma, I hope all the manufacturers get their computers warmed up and get cracking designing new compact pickups. It would be great to see the factories that started the mini-truck segment return with new fuel-efficient compact trucks that have plenty of power. It would also be great to see Ford (and Mazda) stay the course and improve the Ranger and B-series, not discontinue them. Improving does not mean enlarging.
North Americans will vote for new trucks with their pocketbooks, and those pocketbooks are noticeably lighter since it takes around $100 to fill a fullsize truck. If the midsize trucks had large enough gas tanks, they'd take the same to fill. Since they don't, owners of these trucks are spending around $75 to fill their tanks and doing it more often than fullsize-truck owners.
Unless the power and size of a fullsize are necessary to a truck buyer, compact trucks can fill truck needs very well and, when once again available, will sell. There's a generation of buyers out there who've never known what fun it is to drive a compact pickup. Come on OEs - BUILD SMALL TRUCKS AGAIN! Please?
P.S. - In this issue, Larry Heck takes us into the land of the Ancient Ones, or Anasazi. While the story gets warm and fuzzy about these people, we need to remember the name "Anasazi" means "Ancient Enemy." Anthropologists are finding evidence that these people practiced cannibalism and, maybe, human sacrifice. So although it's interesting to explore their territory, before you break out the flute and start to wear Southwestern Anasazi jewelry, remember that not all was sweetness and light a millennium ago.