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Remember When Nissan and Toyota Didn't Bother to Name Their Pickups?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

Nissan Frontier. Toyota Tacoma. These names have been around for almost 20 years, and it's how we've all come to know the midsize pickup offerings from Nissan and Toyota. But did you know that before the Tacoma and the Frontier, Nissan and Toyota didn't bother to name their pickups at all?

I'm serious. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Toyota and Nissan pickups were on the market, but they had no names at all. In car magazines and buying guides, they were called the Toyota truck or the Nissan truck -- lower case included. After all, these weren't names for the vehicles but simply references to their body style: a truck from Toyota and a truck from Nissan.

It should be noted that, unofficially at least, the Nissan did have a name: Even though the automaker never named the truck, many drivers called it the Nissan Hardbody, a mysterious name that evidently referred to its overall styling and its double-sided bed. The Toyota, on the other hand, had no name at all -- not even a nickname. It was just the Toyota pickup.

In today's world of branding, corporate identities and targeted promotions, it's hard to fathom such a thing: a vehicle without a name. Imagine, for instance, if Kia's next sedan was simply called... the sedan. But back then, trucks were still workhorse vehicles, used almost exclusively by people who wanted hauling capabilities above all else -- so the Toyota and Nissan pickups didn't quite have the following they're now known for (except, of course, with Marty McFly).

As pickups started to get more popular with city-dwellers interested in a capable vehicle that looks cool, Nissan and Toyota realized they needed to name their pickups -- and so, the Tacoma name was born in 1995, and the Frontier came along in 1998. And now, we look back and laugh at the time when Toyota and Nissan decided that naming their vehicles wasn't a necessary marketing strategy.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Remember When Nissan and Toyota Didn't Bother to Name Their Pickups? - Autotrader