From the moment that the first car rolled onto the streets, there has been tight competition amongst manufacturers to build a more stylish, faster, better vehicle than the other guy. This is the very motivation that causes the advancement of trucks, cars, and more, with increasing speed and performance. This is great for the consumer; if you’re willing to commit to years of payments, it’s nice to at least have a variety of options to choose from.
However, like any other type of vehicle, trucks have experienced their fair share of flops throughout the years. Sometimes, offering extensive options isn’t enough to save a model. Since the majority of the civilian world don’t actually need a heavy-duty vehicle to perform their daily tasks, the weakest trucks find themselves in an unsavory predicament along with sports cars during an economic downturn.
As a rule, the most successful trucks tend to be the ones that are the most useful. Hence, why the smaller trucks tend to take the biggest hit during a period of financial crisis. Despite the struggles of mass-producing a dying breed, some manufacturers have managed to keep a pulse thrumming in their outdated vehicles and have even cleverly redesigned (and renamed) many of them to keep the models afloat.
On the flip side, there are a number of models that we can’t even recall; some trucks, cars, and other vehicles just never seem to influence much of the market and quietly fade out of existence. Here are just a few trucks that have experienced the strife of a bad economy, a few mechanical failures, and have been met with the rejection of car buyers.
Above all, the Chevrolet SSR is the least surprising pickup on this list, if you can even call it a pickup. On the surface, everyone probably assumes that it’s a no-brainer why the SSR was unsuccessful: it’s one of the most questionable vehicles Chevy has ever made. But that logic fails to explain the relative success of the HHR, the plain-Jane SUV cousin of the SSR. The problem with the SSR is the fact that it’s one of the least necessary trucks ever. Sports cars have a difficult time selling on their own, but you’d think morphing one with a truck would make it slightly more appealing since trucks sell like hotcakes, right? Well…not exactly. Creating a convertible truck with a tiny bed just takes away all of the utility uses that attract truck buyers and it takes away all of the desirable horsepower that attracts sports car junkies. It was doomed from the start.
With a short bed (41.5 inches, to be precise) and low power output, 210 horsepower and a meager 176 lb-ft of torque in a regular model, it was impossible to get a decent amount of power out of a Baja unless buyers upgraded to the turbocharged model, which wasn’t all that impressive of an improvement, anyway. The Baja wasn’t nearly as unusable as the SSR, per se, but if you use a pickup on a regular basis then you quickly realize the limitations of a compact truck. Even Tacoma ownership has its fallbacks. So, the ugly duckling Subaru never really had a chance in the US market with competitive full-sized trucks that enjoy a cult following.
As we have already established, the selling point for most trucks is the sheer fact that they provide unparalleled capabilities. In other words, trucks have more functional value than cars in the leisure market. But who wants to pay upwards of $52,200 for a truck that is basically a rebadged F-150? If you wanted to get an F-150 with the same engine specs as the Blackwood, it would cost close to $31,000 (base MSRP). Most consumers weren’t dazzled by Lincoln’s emblem nearly enough to succumb to paying such a giant price tag for something that wasn’t all that special. And in the 15 months of production, the Blackwood managed to build a reputation that it just couldn’t come back from.
Despite the fact that the last model of the Equator is not even a decade old yet, it’s widely unknown to the majority of the truck-owning population. By the time the Equator came into the small pickup scene, the Tacoma had already been promoted to king of the little guys. Plus, the Equator was meant to be a US-market vehicle, and as gas prices skyrocketed following the recession in the US, the Equator received no love from the compact-car-endorsing civilians. It wasn’t a terrible truck, albeit it was too similar to the outdated Frontier for the liking of most. Timing meant everything for Suzuki; the failure of the Equator marked the US division’s shuttering.
The Raider may not have fallen entirely due to the fault of the automaker, as the truck was equipped with a Chrysler Power Tech engine in an effort to save on production costs in the US market. In the same way that Suzuki came far too late in the game with the Equator, the Raider had too little too late. Even though it was based off of the Dodge Dakota, it had less options and even less horsepower than its mid-sized companion. Not to mention that loyalty to US manufacturers happens to be a major factor for truck buyers. It was an economy that just didn’t leave much room for these less-usable mid-sized pickups. The total lack of desire for something that is under-equipped and under-powered for a relatively high price left the Raider in the dust behind the hardly-surviving Tacoma and Colorado.
Unlike many of the other mid-sized trucks that debuted during the rise in fuel prices (in the US), the Colorado narrowly escaped discontinuation. However, a bad economic climate isn’t entirely to blame for the failure of the early Colorado. To be fair, it wasn’t completely overlooked like many of the lesser-known mid-sized pickups on this list, but it hadn’t gained nearly the footing that Chevrolet had hoped for at the time. The Colorado had a multiplicity of engine problems, including start failures and a propensity to overheat, but it wasn’t just the motor that was threatened by error; the models also had a few safety recalls including a faulty child seat. What nearly put the nail in the coffin for the Colorado, though, was its $21,000 price tag, which wasn’t competitive enough with the compact cars that ruled that period of time.
The Avalanche was a fairly popular truck in Chevy’s lineup, in retrospect. The fact is that the last model of the Avalanche (2012) sold only a little over 20,000 units, which was already a 2% decline from the previous year. In other words, much of that original appeal faded out after a few years of cosmetic defects and some frustrating transmission problems and oil consumption issues. That’s right, the Avalanche was riddled with troubles for the unsuspecting owners; most of which were caused by the mere fact that Chevrolet bought the cheapest materials possible to put this truck together. After a short time, owners who happened to live in a warmer climate had the unfortunate experience of plastic pieces melting and eventually falling apart.
The Hombre and the S10 were the same truck with two different badges, but they each had similar problems with sales. While the S10 had a relatively fruitful beginning, the Isuzu Hombre had a very short lifespan of only four years of production, ending in the early 2000s. The Hombre was simply too plain and offered too few options to give consumers much to work with. Not to mention, there’s that lurking issue that arises with smaller trucks. The S10, on the other hand, had over 10 years of production—even more, if you include the sales in Brazil—and were eventually discontinued after the styling and size became a little outdated for the developing tastes of consumers. The S10 was not a bad truck, but it set the stage for the Colorado.
Like its Mitsubishi counterpart, the Dodge Dakota predictably experienced a serious lag in sales. However, this is particularly surprising because, unlike the Raider, the Dakota was produced for 25 years and also had an uprated engine in comparison. The end of the compact truck was defined by the decrease in popularity of these small trucks. Even though it managed to make it through several economic hoops and the US recession, critics and car buyers alike couldn’t get over the Dakota’s obnoxious price tag. It’s not so much the actual cost that buyers complained about, but the mere fact that it was priced about the same as the Ram 1500. For most, it made more sense to go bigger at that cost.
Toyota has defied all other brands with the mass appeal to their compact, Tacoma, over the full-sized Tundra. This isn’t always true, but the 2005-2008 model year range was an especially bad time for the Tundra. In response to the economic hardships of the period, particularly for the US, the demand for a gas-guzzling Tundra was out of the question. The Tacoma had also received the cold shoulder from the shuddering economy, but the Tundra had a number of recalls that also made it a relatively unappealing option. Most of the common problems with the Tundra were cosmetic in nature, such as the propensity for peeling paint, but it was enough to keep buyers away.
Honda may have a huge following when it comes to their compact cars but their trucks are a different story. The Ridgeline has had a really rough go of it despite its nice styling and comfort. During its 2005 debut (in Canada), the Ridgeline was met with fair success, but as time went on, the truck experienced a serious setback in sales, most of which has been credited to the Tōhoku earthquake that delayed some of the production of parts for the Ridgeline. However, the steady decline has yet to recover fully, so we assume that there’s probably more to the story. In fact, throughout its development, the Ridgeline has had to be discounted in order for dealers to get it off of their lots, even after several facelifts and performance improvements.
Like its arch-rival, Lincoln, Cadillac just can’t seem to get enough people interested in luxury trucks. The term ‘luxury truck’ sounds like an oxymoron to most truck-buyers in the first place. Iit doesn’t help that Cadillac expected many people to go after a pickup that had little-to-no appeal for those who are actually interested in trucks. Some speculate that the big three (Ford, Chevy, and Dodge) have a monopoly on trucks purely because of their cult following, but it comes down to more than just brand for truck-buyers. Who would buy a luxury truck knowing that they’d be terrified of scratching or denting it—pretty much defeating the entire purpose of buying a utility vehicle in the first place—when you can buy a durable truck that’s a lot cheaper? In essence, people are much less afraid to nick and bruise a lower-priced vehicle than a luxury one and that can carry huge weight in the buying decision.
The D-Max came into the picture once General Motors and Isuzu closed up their Japan plant and opened a new one in Thailand. With this new location came all-new vehicles out of their factory. The D-Max was sold around the world, but was built slightly different depending on location and was known by a variety of names. While it was obviously not a total failure—as it’s based on an earlier platform of the Chevrolet Colorado but with different styling—it has experienced a few lulls in certain regions due to economic conditions. However, Isuzu was highly responsive to potential threats and offered a variety of trims and engine options to keep the D-Max alive, which is a good thing because the modern-day Colorado would likely cease to exist otherwise.
The best-selling F-150 has had a few years of hardship that few have brought to light. After many years of being the number one truck sold in the US, all of that glory went down the drain for the 2010 model year. Not only was this one of the worst selling years for the F-150, but it’s also one of the less reliable. Many consumers have complained of having clutch issues and problems with the four-wheel drive, along with cosmetic defects including premature peeling paint, most of which occurred less than a few months into ownership. Needless to say, the F-150 has maintained a bulletproof reputation for many years but the 2010 model just wasn’t meant to be for this market favorite.
It may be surprising that the Denali had some troubles of its own, being that it’s one of the most popular upper-level pickups on this list. Like any other vehicle, it’s had its own fair share of rough patches, though. The Denali trim is obviously the high-end package for the Sierra, and while the majority of GMC Sierra’s sold as expected for the 2001-2005 model year range, the Denali equipped with Quadrasteer was just excessively priced to the extent that hardly any buyers would opt for this particular truck. It was such a failure that it is practically unheard of in the used truck market today. After 2005, the Denali with Quadrasteer was completely wiped from the GMC stable.
The Isuzu Faster was the two-wheel-drive version of the Rodeo and was recognized by a multiplicity of names and badges, including the Chevrolet LUV. While the majority of its lifespan was spent in the 90s, the Faster had a short-lived impression in a few parts of the world in the early 2000s. Unfortunately for Isuzu, it had a hard time competing with other manufacturers in the small-pickup market. The prices were simply not competitive enough for what the Faster had to offer and it ultimately had to be discontinued and replaced by the D-Max. Its last remaining models were sold in various parts of the world, long after sales had ceased in many other regions of the world.
The Courier was a long-lived Ford with an extensive history of mild success. Then, the European and Brazilian markets were left with one of the ugliest editions of the Courier and, quite possibly, one of the ugliest vehicles ever. The Fiesta-based Courier was a bulbous car-truck that even had a van-like option—basically, the bed could be enclosed but it made the truck look like a wannabe camper van. For obvious reasons, the Fiesta Courier didn’t sell much at all. While the Courier’s Fiesta spinoff only lasted until 2002 in Europe, it wasn’t officially discontinued from Mexico until 2010. Both were replaced by more attractive successors; Europe received the Transit Connect while Mexico got the Ranger.
Despite being sold in over 130 countries, the Mazda B-Series only met with mild success after a number of years of being produced. At first, the truck was very reliable and versatile, which was attractive for many buyers. But the engine was undersized for the majority of consumers, so it wasn’t exactly your go-to truck. For the bulk of its existence, the B-Series, also known by a variety of other names, had an inline-four-cylinder engine. It wasn’t until the year before its discontinuation when Mazda released an inline-six and by then, it was too little too late. It’s also helpful to note that many of the model year B-Series trucks offered around the world were completely different from the B-Series and Ford Rangers (a rebadged B-Series at one time) offered in the US.
General Motors may not be known for their incredible gas mileage or state-of-the-art designs but back in the early 2000s, they were dabbling in hybrid technology. The first hybrid passenger vehicle that GM ever released was the Parallel Hybrid Truck (PHT), which was basically a truck with several extra batteries and a transmission flywheel housing that only functioned to crank the engine and provide power to electronics. It was initially available to contractors because it had 120V, 20-amp AC outlets that were particularly useful on job sites. However, GM only released the PHT Silverado & Sierra to a handful of states (and Canada) as more of a trial run before they were eventually phased out. They were steeply priced, which didn’t benefit GM in the civilian market, but for construction contractors, it was a valuable truck. To be fair, only a small number were ever made, but these trucks weren’t high demand, likely because of the market crash.
The Nissan Frontier has always been the ugly duckling of the compact truck market. Always a step behind, the Frontier meekly followed the Tacoma and other fruitful compacts that proudly paved the way for tiny trucks. While the Frontier prided itself on being a reliable compact truck, perfect for utility uses, the 2005-2008 model years experienced a sharp decline in dependability. Many of the small issues that plagued the truck at the beginning of ownership turned into massive ordeals (including engine failure) later on. Unsurprisingly, this led to a steady decline in sales throughout the years. Even after many of these issues were resolved, the Frontier never fully recovered and yet, Nissan has managed to keep the model alive.
Sources: Investopedia, MotorJunkie, and Wikipedia