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Remember the 4-Door SUV-Pickup Craze?

When we’re looking back on strange things that happened in the mid-2000s, like those articles about how "ONLY 1990s KIDS WILL REMEMBER POGS AND TROLL DOLLS" or whatever, I hope someone remembers the 4-door pickup-SUV craze. This started in about 2000, and it was completely finished by about 2009. Naturally, General Motors continued it through 2012.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what happened: In early 2000, for the 2001 model year, Ford debuted a pickup version of its Explorer SUV called the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. This began a bizarre craze wherein everyone decided they must have pickup-SUV hybrid things. Ford stopped there (thankfully), but General Motors rolled out the Chevy Avalanche for the following model year, 2002, along with a Cadillac version called the Escalade EXT.

Although you’d think it would stop with Ford and Chevy, who are always looking for ways to get more SUV and pickup buyers, it didn’t. In 2003, Subaru — of all automakers, Subaru! — joined in the fun, adding an SUV-wagon-pickup-thingy to its lineup, which they called the Subaru Baja. In 2006, Honda came out with the Ridgeline, which was maybe the epitome of all these vehicles; a Pilot underneath, Pilot running gear, Pilot interior bits and a strange-looking trucky-SUV body on top.

This craze was popular enough that Ford and Chevy actually took their SUV-pickup-things into second generations. A redesigned Explorer Sport Trac debuted in 2007, as did a second-generation Chevy Avalanche; both were more modern, better variations on the original theme. And the automotive craze of the 2000s was off and running.

However, just like all automotive "crazes," this one died about as quickly as it started. The Sport Trac was gone by 2010, and the Baja — never a strong seller — was killed off after 2006. The Ridgeline, late to the party, languished until 2014 — but sales had been a trickle for years before that. And the Chevy Avalanche stuck around until 2012, finding some diehard buyers who loved the thing — but then it was gone. Today, there are no remnants left of this craze, which began merely 15 years ago — and there are no reminders, except for the occasional Sport Trac you see driven by someone who would’ve been the coolest person on the road back in 2001. Find a used truck for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Love my 2004 Sport Trac, still runs like a dream but only 2WD, looking for a new (AWD preferably) SUV with truck bed…so convenient!

  2. I saw the Ford Explorer one today, I said that’s a sharp looking vehicle, Jack said “I am in the mood to buy a car let’s check into it”. I loved the Tacoma in the early 2000 when it was a small pickup. I think we would both been interested in that explorer thing. Too bad they don’t make them anymore. 

  3. I used to drive my dad’s 90’s chevy 2500 extended cab, and dream of buying a Ford F-350 Crew-cab diesel, but the further I get away from those days, the more I hesitate to buy a pickup truck. I borrowed a mid-2000’s chevy crewcab diesel and even here out west where suv’s/trucks are the norm, parking spaces still feel ridiculously cramped, and as such it makes it a hassle to actually get anywhere. That being said my boss’s Ridgeline seems like a pretty nice truck if you can accept the fact that towing is practically a non-starter. The trunk is pretty handy, the dual-opening bed is practical and not a gimmick, and it generally handles fairly well. 

    I could see a ‘crossover-sized’ truck craze happening again, but only if pricing is 20% lower than competing full-size trucks. The problem is when you can get a full-size pickup for the same price +/- 10% people typically just buy the full-size truck and deal with the parking hassle, poor mileage, etc. Only Toyota seems to be able to get away with full-size truck pricing for mid-size trucks with any sort of popularity. Honestly I’m surprised Jeep doesn’t enter that market with a Cherokee-truck model. Still would offer terrible towing capacity, but would open them up to a new market, and they should be able to do so at a reasonable price. 

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