Mid-Size Trucks Gaining Ground in Canada

Mid-Size Trucks Gaining Ground in Canada

2017 Toyota TacomaCanada’s love affair with the ever-dependable pickup truck continues to grow, with total sales jumping eight percent during the 2016 calendar year. “Automakers sold around 1.95 million units in Canada last year, up about three percent from another record year in 2015,” said Allison Lampert of Reuters in Montreal.

There’s no denying the Great White North is full-size truck country, and most are Built Ford Tough®. “F-Series sales jumped 22 percent to an all-time annual high, a gain of 26,572 units compared with 2015,” said author of Best-Selling Pickup Trucks In Canada – 2016 Year End, Timothy Cain. No surprise here, the company also secured the top spot on Kanetix.ca’s list of Top 10 Trucks in Canada. “The Ford F-Series pickup truck is not only the best-selling truck in Canada, but it’s the best-selling vehicle, period. In 2016, it was the only vehicle in Canada to break the 100,000 sold achievement.”

That’s great, but what may pique your interest is that four smaller, more affordable, just-as-shiny crown jewels landed on the Top 10 list as well. The feisty Toyota Tacoma reigned king of the mid-size truck market during 2016 and placed fifth overall against some hefty full-size competition. Chevy Colorado took seventh place on the same list and locked down runner-up status against its respective market-leader, the Tacoma. GMC Canyon, the mid-size segment’s only luxury-inspired truck, came in eighth overall and placed third behind the Colorado. And a newly redesigned, highly anticipated 2017 Honda Ridgeline snagged fourth among its fellow competition, edging out the Nissan Frontier for the tenth place spot.

That’s an admirable feat for shorter body frames cast in the shadows of giants like the Ford F-Series, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. Although the top four full-size trucks outsell its entire junior sector, an 8.5-percent market share increase in mid-size truck sales during 2016 presents a positive outlook.

“The modern mid-size truck is the old full size,” said Ryan Osborne, Product Manager at FX Products. He discussed how decades of research and development have resulted in sophisticated platform advancements. No doubt the bar has been raised for mid-size pickups, as they’ve certainly graduated since the first Dodge Dakota graced dealer lots back in 1980’s. “Sustainability within the segment can be attributed to a variety of upgrades, including appealing aesthetics, progressive technology, improved safety feature ratings, enhanced performance, impressive on- and off-road capabilities, and better fuel economy,” commented Osborne.

2017 Honda RidgelineWhile OE’s aren’t interested in converting more expensive full-size truck sales to its less-expensive counterpart, “the expansion of features, performance, and safety ratings of mid-size trucks may actually attract buyers away from the full-size category,” said Mike McLaughlin of UnderCover.

Practical for everyday use, intermediate towing and enthusiast-based activities, mid-size pickups are attracting new truck owners at an astonishing rate. Best of all, they perform well for general recreation and general contracting alike. Now consumers have a reasonably priced entry-level truck option that doesn’t require sacrifice of the creature comforts they’ve become accustomed to in a car, crossover, or SUV.

“The idea is to grow the pie and attract new truck buyers who may be intimidated by, or simply don’t require, larger trucks. Mid-size trucks are easier to manage and maintain and with the new features and amenities, they are an attractive option to enter into a big truck market,” added Charly Henley of BAK Industries. Take the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, for example. “That’s a standout truck because its market appears to be comprised heavily of previous Honda car owners. While it performs like a truck, it has a certain automotive feel to it,” added Henley.

And those enhanced amenities Henley speaks of are plentiful in the updated platform. From an available 150W/400W outlet housed in the wall of the bed to charge power tools or plug in a TV, to the lockable, 7.3 cu. ft. In-Bed Trunk® that includes a drain plug, so owners can use it as an ice chest or a place to store wet gear without compromising bed utility. Listen to your favourite music outside with the industry’s first truck bed audio system, which uses the bed walls to pump out the tunes. Or prepare to be amazed with a clever tailgate that not only drops down, but also swings open toward the driver’s side like an old-fashioned station wagon, for improved access.

As practical and sophisticated as these mid-size gems are right off the dealer lot, the aftermarket offers countless customization options so that any truck can stand out in a sea of others. And automotive industry leaders believe Canada is ripe with opportunity in the mid-size truck market, despite some economic wobbles in 2016. Make no mistake, these manufacturers are laser-focused on year-over-year growth within the Canadian truck market and are chomping at the bit to help drivers customize their ride with functional and fashionable upgrades in every price point. Lift it, style it, lower it, tune it, cover it, tow it, maintain it. Personalize the driving experience, from low-profile front end or truck bed protection, steps or boards, level kits, and vehicle protection to trendy wheels, cargo storage, 4×4 accessories, and more.

Even traditional performance kings like K&N, aFe Power, Airaid, MBRP, MagnaFlow, Flowmaster, and Gibson have found their niche within this relatively new, yet booming, mid-size market. These companies are investing in the platform’s longevity by producing new products and expanded applications each year.

“With 23 percent of the owners accessorizing their vehicles with exhaust systems, we do not plan to slow down our engineering and development of new products for trucks,” said Laurel Dasher, National Accounts Manager at MagnaFlow. And why should they when, according to a recent Borla® Performance Industries commercial, an exhaust system upgrade likely has the greatest immediate impact in vehicle power, performance, and style for a reasonable price.

2017 GMC CanyonTuning company Hypertech is ahead of the curve as well, anticipating late-model, mid-size trucks to continue in an upward trajectory. Consumers can increase the performance and fuel  efficiency of their pickups without having to spend extra money on engine or drivetrain upgrades. “The Max Energy 2.0 Power Programmer for the 2015-2016 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon with the 3.6L direct-injected V-6 engine is a great example. The Max Energy programmer provides a gain of 13 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. The benefit of the engine tuning is more power for passing, improved acceleration, enhanced throttle response and less downshifting at part throttle,” said Chris Crecelius of Hypertech.

From under the hood to the back of the truck, “The rise of the mid-size truck simply has given us more vehicle models to introduce our product lines to, consequently diversifying and expanding our customer base,” said Kevin Cislo at Extang. “Not only are these trucks a nice complement to the full-size market, but also are used just as much and many times just as hard as its full-size counterpart. These owners benefit from products like BAKFlip or RevolverX2 bed covers, too, so they can maximize their use of bed space,” Charly Henley concurs.

The top two mid-size trucks, Tacoma and Colorado, also happen to be best-selling vehicle models for Mike Timmons at BedRug. Even though OE’s have cannibalized many bedmat sales because of spray-in bedliners at the point of purchase, Timmons still sees bedmat sales growing at a very fast rate within the mid-size segment.

And given their significant appeal, mid-size trucks have become a more family-friendly choice as well. Timmons believes that consumers are willing to make a compromise: larger, more luxurious truck cab features for the trade off of a slightly smaller bed. “The smaller bed actually is more convenient, and with a hard folding or roll-up bed cover, it’s really the perfect solution for busy, active families. You can store a lot of smelly hockey gear back there!” added Timmons.

Don’t let the mid-sizers fool you. They may be compact, but they’re far from incapable. Confirmation of the Ford Ranger returning to North America, fluid concepts like the future Ram Rampage, and groundbreaking designs like the Honda Ridgeline continue to push the envelope, drive consumer demand, and inspire the aftermarket.

Categories: Features, Trucks Plus