The 2000s have seen a lot of great advancements for the pickup truck segment of the auto market. NASCAR didn't really start racing pickups until the last half of the 1990s, but the popularity of their SuperTruck series has grown a lot in the new century.
That circuit also led to the homologation of some impressive production vehicles to support and deploy racing technology; trucks like the Ford SVT 150 series, including both the revived supercharged Lightning and the off-road beast we know now as "Raptor." It also likely helped to spur GM to convert special versions of the C/K line of the last half of the 20th Century—including the Sport Special edition—into the Silverados and Sierras of the 2000s.
Pickup truck accessorizing and hot-rodding have also experienced a great boom over the last two decades.
And the announcement earlier this spring that VW had at least committed to a concept version of a light-duty truck to be built on the same platform as its new Atlas SUV—the Atlas Tanoak—represents something of a culmination of positive news about the ever-growing strength of the pickup market segment.
On the other hand, the new millennium hasn't been all good news for truck lovers. Popularity and success are double-edged blades. Indeed, truck sales are like a gold mine for automakers and where there's gold...well, there is bound to be some pyrite ("fool's gold"), some worthless claims, and perhaps even a few unscrupulous folks salting played out mines too.
In that spirit, HotCars.com now brings you a list of 21st Century pickup truck misfires, misfits and out-and-out failures.
14 Chevy SSR
The SSR is one of two "trucks" on this list that are the regular stuff of "worst" lists. I hate to pile on, but...
To be honest, the SSR has a face like a golden retriever: it's almost impossible not to feel friendly towards it. And, just to be clear, I am a big fan of modded pickups and hot-rods in general. The SSR was purported to be, in the first instance, just that: a production hot-rod in pickup configuration.
That's a mouthful, isn't it?
And that was probably the biggest problem with the SSR: you can't build one vehicle that is all things to all potential buyers. It is also a problem that "hotrod" and "production" are fundamentally opposed by their very nature. A hotrod is a one-off that expresses the creativity of its designer (which may or may not be the same as its owner/driver). A production vehicle, on the other hand (with regard to modification anyway) is basically the blank canvas upon which a hotrod is painted...er, I mean, "built."
The other of those two trucks we mentioned is...
13 Lincoln Blackwood
The Blackwood is one of those odd things that seems to only happen in the automotive world. It was a product that was so bad the few that were sold have likely become more valuable over time.
Let me get this out of the way right now: slapping luxury marque badging onto a pickup is something I consider pretty stupid at best and kind of offensive at worst.
Still, manufacturers seem to regularly heed the siren's song of increased revenues which could be realized if they simply "put some lipstick on a pig that they are already taking to market." That is, they are already manufacturing a truck, for example, why not drop the luxury label on it and turn it into two products each aimed at a different segment?
Indeed, the birth of Blackwood seems to have been a case of having more marketing than common sense. Supposedly Ford's Lincoln division was so impressed with itself over the Navigator SUV sales that it decided pin-striping an F-150 Crew Cab would be an even better idea.
In what could only be considered an omen that GM execs should have paid more attention to, the Blackwood offered the same kind of tonneau-encased-rear-boot-in-place-of-a-payload that would also be featured on the SSR a few years later. And, regardless of how its rare-bird status may have inflated the market value of one of these Lincolns, it's still a failed product.
It lasted one MY and it was gone.
12 Cadillac Escalade EXT
For most of the last hundred years, at least in North America, the pickup has been the unrivaled king of auto sales. The statistics are mind-boggling sometimes. So many trucks are sold in the USA that the total often works out to several thousand per day.
But if pickups are king then for the past 30 years or so the SUV has been the prince(-ss). SUVs started out in the 1980's as the ugly step-child of production pickups. That is, a lot of them were simply truck chassis with full-size passenger shells dropped onto them. No payload other than the human kind accommodated.
Then the Doctors Frankenstein in charge of auto marketing decided to go one step further. They cross-bred the truck with the SUV. And for some reason people bought them. Finally, the powers that be ran their luxury shell game on top of that...
The Cadillac Escalade EXT is what burst out of the chest of GM after all of that bad science. It is pretty much a Chevy Avalanche with some rebadging and added amenities. Or, put another way, it's an Escalade with room for fewer passengers and with a few pieces of loose sheet metal used to "convert" it to full on SUV configuration. Both Cadillac models are always listed high on consumer dissatisfaction listings. And though people continue to buy them, their individual numbers and those for all "land yacht" SUVs are starting to flag. Buyers are showing a renewed preference for real pickups.
11 2003 GMC Sonoma
The Sonoma is a very small truck indeed; never really intended to haul anything of any weight and never intended to tow. It is (or "was") a holdover from the days when the major Detroit automakers were tempted into making up for diminishing consumer sales figures with "fleet" sales.
Fleet sales, as you might imagine, involve contracting with businesses, big and small, to provide commercial transportation vehicles. Regardless of whatever type of business they might actually be engaged in, many enterprises chose small trucks. The reasoning often was that in most cases when an employee might be sent out on a delivery, for example, that employee went alone. So the size of the vehicle was not critical. Why not then get the smallest car you could get? Why opt for a truck at all? The logic was that if the manufacturer offered the small truck for basically the same cost per mile/km as a small sedan you might as well choose the truck, "just in case." As a small company purchasing agent once said to me, "Better to have it and not need it than the other way around."
All of that by way of saying that there are an awful lot of these things still out there. Once the manufacturer gets tooled up to make them, it's easy to keep going and to offer them for consumer retail as well as to fleet customers.
10 2010 Ford F250
In the early part of the 20th Century when Ford started mass producing cars, consumers in large cities actually had little need of point-to-point transportation such as that offered by cars. Individual transportation, as a need, was mainly a rural issue. That is, if you lived in the city, you walked or took public transport. Because cities had grown up without considering the automobile in their design, you didn't really need one to get around.
If you lived on a farm however, transportation was something you actually had to provide for yourself most of the time. Draft animals could take up a lot of space, time, and work hours if you let them. So when automobiles came along, there were two kinds of folks ready to line up and buy: wealthy people who had leisure time to fill with hobbies such as "motoring," and farmers.
The former group opted for speed and roadsters: i.e. horsepower. The latter group needed brute strength and dependability: i.e. torque. And thus an eternal conflict was born.
The 2010 250 Super Duty is the last of the Ford Diesels that came with the Powerstroke 6.4L engine. I'm not saying those engines didn't have the torque that many people are looking for, but they have a real reputation for unreliability. They are said to be "not as bad" as the 6.0's which preceded them, but, really, why risk it.
Ford stopped making that engine in 2011, so...that'll tell you something.
9 2002-04 Dodge Ram 1500
For the most part I tend to give Daimler a lot of credit for what they did for Chrysler when they had control of it for that brief decade which opened the 21st Century.
One of the important holdovers from the era is the now-familiar crosshairs on almost all Dodge front grilles. It gave the brand a real identity for the new millennium: it's distinctive, emanates power, and just looks great.
But there were some bad moments in Detroit for the German giant. Worst of all has been the suspension issue—the wobble of death—that first cropped up with Jeep products in the early 2000's.
A very long time ago before it was acquired by Chrysler, Dodge made a legendary truck for the US war effort in the 1940's. That was the Power Wagon. One of its distinctive features was that it could basically go anywhere. Unlike an M4 tank, however, it did not flatten everything in sight as it did; it mostly crawled over them. One of the big innovations in that regard was a very heavy duty track bar.
Fast forward 75 years or so and that is exactly the part that is driving a lot of Jeep- and Dodge pickup owners nuts. On top of that, this vintage of 1500's is also renowned for having poor life stock tires and an equally infamous propensity for dashboard cracking.
8 2013 Honda Ridgeline
In the 1980s, US car manufacturers noticed that a lot of consumers were buying pickups because those vehicles came with 4WD capability. The important thing was that this group of consumers was not those people who were considered the usual profile for a truck buyer. They lived in the suburbs, not on the farm. And a lot of them were white collar office workers, rather having a trade.
Manufacturers outside of the US also noticed the trend to SUVs and so they too decided to jump in with their own competing offerings. For whatever reason, however, most non-US makers either started from scratch or used an existing car platform rather than building on top of a truck. That is, many started with a vehicle that was designed as a car first and worked in the other direction. That is a better way to go frankly if you are building an "SUV."
Unfortunately, things didn't stop there. Now we are in an era of "MUVs", "TUVs", and Heaven only knows what else. One of the most egregious of this new group of segments is the half-pickup-half-SUVs like the Chevy Avalanche and this Honda Ridgeline.
The Honda is a front drive truck with almost zero hauling or towing capacity. Essentially it is a (Honda) Element which has been raised a great deal with a "payload" attached so that it looks like a pickup. However, if you have any needs for any of the true capacities or capability of a real pickup forget about the Ridgeline and the rest of its segment cohort...and let's just hope they're not able to reproduce on their own.
7 2006 Mitsubishi (Baja) Raider
The Mitsubishi Raider has a weirdly intricate past which includes a good deal of "inbreeding." That kind of thing is a very big risk that the industry runs as it enjoys the fruits of "rebadging."
The Raider was a small truck design from the 1990's which had itself been based on a Mitsubishi SUV from that same time period. So the Mitsu Montero became the Mitsu Raider which then became the Dodge Dakota...which later became the Mitsu Raider again in the first decade of this century.
There's a reality TV show joke in there somewhere just waiting to be made. Surprisingly I have a sense that that joke, though likely hilarious, would be too much in bad taste even for me.
Small trucks have their place in terms of especially tight metropolitan business and work truck fleets. But stylistically and for the consumer in most parts of the world, small trucks are just small. The whole point of a pickup is the power to haul, the power to engage 4WD and the power to tow. Anything less is...um, less.
The last gasp of the Raider was a boutique concept for a citified metro version. In effect, a pickup with nearly none of the good characteristics of the segment, just the look: "street-candy."
6 2006 Dodge Dakota
Dakota is the "big" small pickup truck, whatever that means. It did have a larger engine option than most of its competition (a V8), but it was, by 2006 sharing its platform with both the Durango SUV and the Mitsu Raider. In fact, the Dakota was always almost completely a parts-bin product with almost nothing unique to its manufacturing whatsoever.
It was, in that way, the rule that proves the exceptions—if any—to the work truck/fleet sales issue cited previously. In fact, by the time the 2005 MY rolled around, the Dakota was pretty much dedicated to that market.
Here's why: if a consumer was going to buy a V8, why not step up to a full-size (3/4 ton) pickup? And why pay the price for a "small" truck when you could just as well buy the Dodge 1500 for the same cost (or less if you played your "option package" cards right)?
A lot of folks will tell you that what killed Dakota was the sale of Chrysler to Fiat. But frankly, the new owners gave Dakota more chance than it probably deserved. It died alongside Ford's even smaller Ranger and GM/GMC's S-10 and Sonoma in 2011, just about the same time that Ram was split from the Dodge brand entirely.
5 2008 Suzuki Equator
Though they had been in existence already for half of that century, as a company Suzuki got to be very good at applying internal combustion engines to bicycle transport. Motorbikes was where the company's first big success came with that technology, about mid-way through the 20th Century.
So, Suzuki as a brand has stuck in people's minds outside of Japan—and perhaps Oceania—as a brand of motorcycle. Honda was able to take that same road, but go even further because, for whatever reason, it invested in a dealership network in (especially) the USA. So it had a lot of leverage when the time came to transition to automobile production and sales. All of that by way of saying that consumers in North America have never cozied up to the idea of driving a Suzuki that comes with a steering wheel, let alone one the size of a pickup truck.
The same could be true for the Suzuki Equator. The truck was pretty much the same vehicle as the Nissan Frontier (Nissan Navara in other parts of the world); a nameplate that does sell extremely well in North America. But it could never quite gain a foothold and so it is no longer sold in the USA...or is it...?
4 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class
The pickup in the picture was introduced as a "concept" just a year ago. But, as of April of this year (2018), the X-Class—which shares its platform with the Nissan Frontier and what used to be the Suzuki Equator—has become a reality in many parts of the world including most lately North America. It's hard to imagine anything coming from MB being included on a "misfires" list, but here it is. And, frankly, MB has misfired a few times in recent years.
Now Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Benz are two separate units of the larger company. That company, Daimler AG, also controls the Mercedes-Maybach marque and has an interest in many others, as well as in many other segments of the auto industry.
All of which means that sometimes it is hard for the AMGs to know what the AGs are doing, even MY to MY. Neither is the X-Class likely to be anything like "a Daimler" or "a Düsseldorfer." It's mainly just an attempt to take advantage of a popular segment with a "halo" product. It's sad to see marques thus watered down, but I suppose it is the way of all progress.
With no plans to sell it in Germany, you won't be seeing it in your rearview on the A49 ("Frankfurt Autobahn") any time soon anyway.
3 2017 Ford F-150
If the F250 Super Duty represents maximum torque then Ford's 150 series has turned into something more of a style icon in the 21st Century.
These days, power versus torque is not all that pickups or any sort of vehicles are all about; there is no easy split and auto marketing, like all sales efforts, actually contributes to that by trying to separate buyers into different "niches."
But times have changed as well over the past one hundred years. The easy split between city and country doesn't exist so much any longer either; in most industrialized nations the greatest population live somewhere in-between: the suburbanites. Yet, many of those still like to be seen driving trucks for one reason or another.
That, in turn, has increased the emphasis on style and increased the strain on quality control as well. Manufacturers like Ford make a lot more trucks than they used to. More production means mistakes are more likely to happen. Since 2015, Ford's pickups have have been subject to a lot of recalls. That's partly because there are so gosh-darn many of them. The current F series are some damn fine looking vehicles in the country or in the suburbs or even on city streets. But looks aren't everything; transmission issues plague the latest 150's so if you have one...maybe take the subway for a while.
2 2003 Chevy Silverado
The 2003 Chevy Silverados and its sister, the GMC Sierra, have been the subject of several recalls for manufacturing defects.
Let's be clear: a lot of vehicles get recalled. And that happens more and more frequently it seems as the manufacturing process has gotten to be less centralized for most auto makers. That is, more vehicles are being assembled in places completely different from where their constituent parts are manufactured.
And more often than not the parts and subsystems are being made by companies that have their own suppliers who are completely out of the control of the people who affix the badges to the final product. My personal prejudice as well is that by utilizing the same parts and platforms to make more and more differently configured, but related vehicles, only creates greater chances for error. (Note to GM: Stop making Avalanches and Escalades!...there, that's clear enough, isn't it?)
But a couple of the ones afflicting this generation of Silverado and Sierra are kind of serious: brake line issues, faulty transmissions, and instrument cluster failures are not the kinds of problems an owner can ignore.
In defense of the Silverado in particular, however, it is one of those trucks that people seem to keep forever. In general, "problems" with Silverados start at about 150K miles/250K km.
1 2009 Hummer H3T
As a brand, Hummer started out with good intent. It was supposed to be the Willy's of the late 20th Century; a new Jeep for a new millennium.
And frankly, had it stayed apart from GM it might've accomplished that. In fact, it did accomplish much of that. But then it was swallowed up and run into the ground.
The H3 model line was probably the final nail in the coffin. And the H3T was the end of that line.
The H3's were Chevy Colorados with straight 5's and bigger chassis. Thanks to extremely high ground clearance most of the Hummers were very capable off-road vehicles. But it was getting back and forth to the road that was their real problem.
They rode harsh, even harsher than their pickup cousins and they were never as comfortable on surface roads. They were also kinda expensive. Not as expensive as Mercedes-Benz' 500 series, but then they weren't nearly as good at being a comfortable-, even luxurious- ride as are the 500s. And whatever was left to the Hummer, Toyota's FJ Cruiser did for less money, less fuel, and far less depreciation in value.
GM pulled the plug on the marque in 2010. Hasta la vista, Hum-baby...
Sources: Newsroom.vw.com, trucktrend.com, money.cnn.com