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The New Honda Ridgeline Is a Hit, So Why Isn't Anyone Copying It?

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author photo by Eric Brandt October 2017

Honda might be the riskiest brand in the pickup truck game. While the American Big Three and a couple of Japanese competitors rest on their laurels making traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks for the modern cowboy and maybe even some businesses or contractors that actually need trucks, Honda is a gambler. Rather than opting for an easy-to-build truck with massive profit margins, Honda came out with one of the weirdest trucks to ever come to American shores, the Ridgeline. A 4-door, unibody, front- or all-wheel-drive pickup -- with only a V6 available under the hood.

The Honda Ridgeline quickly became the most mocked pickup truck in the industry. It was panned for not being a "real truck" and for its questionable aesthetic. Now in its second generation, the Ridgeline is basically a Honda Pilot with a bed. And it's selling quite well.

Honda has sold over 26,000 Ridgelines so far this year, which means 2017 could be the best year for the Ridgeline since the pre-recession days. Granted, the Ridgeline sells in numbers that will never come close to Ford, GM or RAM truck sales, but it's enough to prove there's a market for quirky trucks that behave like cars.

So why don't the traditional truck brands that dominate the sales-leader board make their own versions of the Ridgeline? Imagine a little Ford F-150 lookalike that drives like a Fusion and gets better fuel economy -- and is easier to drive than its bigger, more ubiquitous counterpart. Sure, midsize trucks like the Chevy Colorado and the Toyota Tacoma have been making a comeback, but those are still distinctly different trucks than the Ridgeline.

You may think there's no room in a lineup for midsize and full-size traditional pickups and a car-based Ridgeline competitor, but have you seen how many SUVs automakers are pedaling these days? Chevy is rumored to be adding a sixth entry to its crossover/SUV lineup soon, so why not throw another pickup into the mix? People buy carlike SUVs in enormous numbers, so why not offer what's basically a crossover with a bed instead of a hatch?

I'll tell you why: profit margins. Pickup trucks pay the bills. They print money. Their profit margins are so high that automakers can afford to take other risks and build insane performance cars that would normally make no business sense, like the Shelby Mustang GT350 and the Camaro ZL1. Do you think there would be a Hellcat or Demon if it wasn't for RAM keeping the lights on at Fiat-Chrysler?

While there's a market for carlike pickups and Honda is hogging all that niche-market share, it's just hard for the big names in trucks to justify straying from their bread and butter. It's due partly to the risk and partly to a resistance to straying from the things these brands have been doing really well for about a century. Why take the risk and spend the money developing a new model when the pickup trucks these brands have perfected are all but guaranteed to keep selling and keep money steadily flowing in? It's one of the safest bets in the car industry. To put it simply, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And the business model for American pickup trucks is far from broke.

Still, I wouldn't mind an extra Ridgeline competitor or two.

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RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Certified 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTS
Certified 2017 Honda Ridgeline
$27,000
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL
Used 2017 Honda Ridgeline
$28,891
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport
Used 2017 Honda Ridgeline
$24,997
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.
The New Honda Ridgeline Is a Hit, So Why Isn't Anyone Copying It? - Autotrader