But by the first part of the 21st Century, a funny thing was beginning to happen: Truck manufacturers were continuing to build bigger and better mini-trucks to meet customers’ demands while they were also meeting the demand of better fuel economy for the fullsize truck market. With American compact trucks and fullsize trucks both nearing the same course, it seemed inevitable only one would remain. Currently, GMC/Chevrolet’s Colorado/Canyon is the last American mini-truck being produced. In 2011, Dodge announced that they would end production of the Dakota by the end of the year, as Ford announced the same thing for the Ranger (for the North American auto market—compact/midsize truck sales in foreign markets continue to grow for Ford). It seems that the overly-capable compact/midsize truck had made itself obsolete.
Fullsize trucks are getting 22 mpg or better these days. Compact trucks—which had really already turned into midsize trucks—are only a few inches smaller than the fullsizes, and the increased price (due to being bigger and more capable) had actually placed some mini-trucks more expensive than some of the fullsize models.
There are still midsize offerings: Chevy’s Colorado (the last American mini-truck) continues to be available, as does the Nissan Frontier, and of course the Toyota Tacoma is still selling like hotcakes. If fuel prices skyrocket, there could be a resurgence of small truck sales that will make them more popular than fullsize trucks. There is no certainty in what Fate has in store for the mini-truck.
But one thing is for sure: The most popular prerunner platform ever and the truck that first bridged the gap between compact and fullsize have ceased production indefinitely.
We’ll miss you, Ranger and Dakota.
Editor’s Note: I’d like to thank Bob Hegbloom, director of the Ram Truck brand, and Mike Levine, Ford Motor Company’s truck communications manager, for their help and contributions to this editorial.