Reader Question: Why No Little Trucks?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

John asks: I’ve always wanted a tiny little two-door, four-cylinder truck like Toyota and Datsun used to sell. Is anybody still making one?

My reply: Yes – but not for sale here.

In the United (by force) States, the smallest new trucks you can buy are mid-sized models like the new Ford Ranger – no relation to the old (and compact-sized) Ford Ranger – the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier (also upsized. These trucks have nearly the same footprint as the full-size/half-ton trucks of the ’90s and prior!

But why no compact trucks?

The reasons have to with the U.S. market (apparently) and mandates that thwart the market.

There is something called the “chicken tax,” which applies punishing tariffs to small trucks built overseas and imported here. This makes it harder to justify importing small trucks because the potential profit margin on them is already lower than for larger trucks. (See my article about all this, here.)

The other factor – apparently – is that Americans in the main just want huge trucks.


Personally, I think that’s bunk – in part because of the tsunami of interest I am personally aware of in the form of people asking me, a car journalist, about them. Secondly, because such trucks make a stronger case for themselves as useful things than the a silly quad/crew cab mid-sized truck with a stub bed that can barely carry a couple of labrador retrievers – and costs $35k!

I expect a $25k 4WD compact-sized truck available with a regular/extended (two door) cab and a six-foot bed and a diesel four making say 260 ft.-lbs. of torque that could pull a 5,000 lb. trailer and get 35 MPG would fly off the shelves.

But we won’t know until Uncle gets off our backs – or rather, gets his paws off the market – and lets the market do its thing.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. The first car I bought myself was a Dodge Ram 50, which was really just a Mitsubishi pickup that was rebadged. 4 cylinders, 4 speed stick, with nothing else; it was as basic as it came. Bought it all (plus my full year’s insurance) for $900 at about 80k miles and literally drove it into the ground 100k additional miles later when the engine seals just gave up the ghost. Replaced the clutch once, had to reconnect the shifter twice, but that thing was awesome and it took forever to kill it.
    Helped people move, helped a buddy when his motorcycle died while riding and we had to lift it in (that low bed was nice), taught two girlfriends how to drive manual in it, etc… For a teenager, into my very early 20’s, this was the perfect vehicle to start with.
    Of all the cars I’ve had, I really miss this one the most and I enjoyed all but one car I had.

    • One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I’ve driven Chevy trucks all my life. They got worked hard and would generally go 200,000 miles before needing anything but maintenance….still have the original u-joints and driveshafts. My 93 Turbo Diesel with 260,000 miles has the original rear drum shoes and the kicker is, it got better mileage than my tiny Nissan 4WD that ate driveline parts like they were going out of style plus belts and tension pulleys and brakes and u-joints and I called it quits with that little POS at 140,000 miles but then again, I did work it.

      People don’t really want pickups or they wouldn’t buy F 150’s with 5.5′ beds. They just want a tall sedan.

      • And I got rid of that Nissan with a dead transmission, a ruined bed,inside rusted out from dirt getting wet…..just like all the Chevy’s suffered but worse since I used them often to haul loads of cowshit to the garden. Of course the a/c exploded not long after the head gasket blew and took chunks out of the block. It only cost about $400 more to rebuild it than a new Chevy crate engine with a 36,000 mile guarantee. If it had room for a decent sized radiator it would have had a SBC and a TH 350 and a gear driven transfer case toot sweet. Of course it would have soon needed a rear-end but I there were plenty of those in wrecked trucks. To its credit, I never had to replace the power steering pump but the seat was broken in the bottom, not a lot of fun to drive that way.

    • Hi Gabe,

      I had a 4WD, 5sp Mighty Max with the older body style. It had a 7ft bed! I loved that truck and wish I’d never sold it.



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