by Jeremy Cato

Honda Canada national sales manager Arch Wilcox predicts the Ridgeline will take a 13 per cent share of the compact pickup market once it hits showrooms in April.

That’s just another front of the ongoing assault Asian manufacturers are making on the North American light truck market. Last year, Japanese and Korean manufacturers grabbed more than one-quarter of the North American light-truck market. It was an all-time high and the ninth straight year the Asians have increased their share.

According to Wilcox, six per cent of current Honda owners also own pickups and he believes the Ridgeline will make many of them two-Honda families, furthering the erosion of dominance in light trucks long held by Detroit-based automakers.
“Right now Honda owners need to leave the brand because we haven’t had a pickup,” he says.

Honda’s new midsize pickup offers most of the pure functionality of a traditional truck, while delivering the creature and packaging comforts of a sport-utility vehicle. It will certainly slice away its share of a market where Honda has never played.
Honda’s luxury division Acura, meanwhile, will enter the entry-level luxury SUV segment with a production version of its RD-X concept vehicle shown in Detroit last January. It will be a smaller entry than the MDX midsize SUV.

Honda, of course, is not alone. Mitsubishi plans to begin selling its new Raider midsize pickup later this year, significantly based on the Chrysler Group’s Dodge Dakota pickup. Like the Dakota, there will be an optional 4.7-litre V-8 engine.

Meanwhile, the midsize SUV segment will get more crowded with new entries from Suzuki and Subaru. Later this spring, Subaru will begin selling its upscale B9 Tribeca SUV and Suzuki says that in 2006 it will sell a production version of the Concept-X SUV it unveiled in Detroit.

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