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Can the Personal Use Pickup Stage a Comeback?

The demise of the personal use pickup has been well documented, what with fuel prices making the urban cowboy think twice about driving a gas swilling truck to get himself (and just himself) to and from the office. And with that, the compact pickup segment has taken a dive as well, since most of those vehicles appealed to the personal use, rather than commercial, user.

The 2012 Nissan Frontier we had for a week seemed anachronistic at first as a result. With its dark wheels and flashy graphics, it’s unabashedly aimed at a personal use audience – the sort of person that uses his truck for fun, not work. We have to admit, though, that its charms became readily apparent over time. With its open bed, the truck became a real enabler of fun. And its compact size made it easy to use in the city, unlike those giant and unwieldy full-size pickups.

We moved stuff. We hauled stuff. But best of all, I was able to load our bikes with our toddler’s brand new bike seat into the bed and head to the beach. Our little daughter proceeded to have possibly the best two hours of her life thus far as we explored all the local bike paths along the coast. That, to me, made the truck a champ to me. It enabled us to go out and have a blast together as a family.

Unfortunately, the little Nissan sported fuel economy easily beaten by a larger Ford F-150, bringing me back to reality. Would I want to deal with this sort of fuel economy on a daily basis? Not a chance. But perhaps this experience does point to a white space in the market for a smaller and more fuel efficient truck. It’s a space pretty much abandoned by the marketplace. But perhaps, as I found out, the charms of a pickup can become accessible to buyers again with greater fuel efficiency.

There are some notable smaller pickups on the way. GM has new Colorado and Canyon compacts on the way that should provide decent fuel economy, and the next Nissan Frontier is reportedly getting smaller, getting commonized with the next generation international Nissan small truck. Who knows – maybe the personal use compact pickup could be ripe for a comeback!

1 Comment

  • DrLou| July 14, 2012 at 12:24 am

    It’s time already for a compact pickup truck that gets good MPG,can haul a 4 x 8 sheet, with AWD or FWD, is inexpensive, reliable, and safe. Build it and we’ll buy it. How about a small diesel pickup with great torque that gets 35-40 mpg highway?

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