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Small Pickup Trucks: What’s Next?

Small Pickup Trucks:  What’s Next?

Small pickup trucks are making a comeback–just look to the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz for proof.  I covered the strengths of these two trucks in a related article, and think there may be room in the market for two or three other manufacturers to jump in.

Related Article:  Does Size Really Matter?

Chevrolet

Ford has a big hit on their hands with the new Maverick, and recently had to cut off new orders as they exceeded their production capabilities for the model year.  Nice problem to have, so where is Chevrolet?

chevy montana

Chevrolet has been selling the Chevrolet Montana, a front wheel drive coupé utility, in Latin America and other emerging markets since 2003. The design of the first generation Montana is a variation of the Opel Corsa, essentially a pickup version of the Opel Combo, while the second generation is based on the Chevrolet Agile.

The third generation Montana (pictured below) is expected to begin production later this year in Brazil, and will be a four-door compact unibody pickup (like the Ford Maverick).  It is not expected to be imported to the United States, but could offer GM a nice competitor to Maverick and Santa Cruz.

Chevrolet dominated the small pickup segment in the 1980s and 1990s with the S-10 pickup.  I owned three of them during that time, and all served me well.

If Chevrolet finds a way to bring Montana to the U.S, I have the perfect name for it:  CHEYENNE.

Fiat

Like the Chevrolet Montana, Fiat (a division of Stellantis) has the Toro compact pickup being built and sold in Brazil.  It is a couple of inches smaller than the Hyundai Santa Cruz and is undergoing a mid-cycle update this year.  That size puts it nicely in the small pickup segment started by Ford and Hyundai.

Also like the Chevrolet Montana, Stellantis has no plans to bring the Toro to the United States.  Since Montana and Toro are built in Brazil for emerging markets, I suspect they would not meet U.S. safety and emissions standards.  If they did, this could make for an interesting RAM pickup.  Can you say Hellcat?

Subaru

Subaru beat all of the above manufacturers to market with the BRAT in 1978. The Subaru BRAT, an acronym for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter,” was a light-duty, four-wheel drive car, sold from 1978 to 1994. 

Those early BRATs had two plastic jumpseats in the pickup bed. While it was a novel way to add two more passengers, it was in place to help Subaru beat paying a 25% tariff.  The plastic seats in the cargo bed allowed Subaru to classify the BRAT as a passenger car, rather than as a light truck. 

The BRAT was not the only small pickup sold by Subaru in the U.S.  The Baja was a four door, four wheel drive utility vehicle sold from 2002-2006.  With unibody construction, Baja had the basic layout found in the new Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.  Perhaps it was the inspiration for those two trucks?

subaru baja

I’ve seen some chatter in Subaru forums from fans hoping that Subaru brings back a BRAT based on the Crosstrek platform, with a possible style like this one below:

While the four door version is the likely design of a future BRAT, I am really interested in this two door version below.  This design remains true to the BRAT heritage, but with a modern twist. 

The two door design could easily be based on the new WRX sport sedan, giving Subaru an inexpensive, hot truck.  That would be a fun take on the small pickup designs currently in today’s market.  Instead of following the current trend of a four door, open bed SUV, a two door BRAT would cut through the clutter and offer something no one else builds.

Where do I sign up?

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