With the Maverick and the Santa Cruz, Ford and Hyundai have started a new compact, unibody pickup segment. But will other manufacturers join them? It seems likely; Ram reportedly has a small pickup in the works and Subaru debuting one at some point would make sense. Another name that could pop up in that discussion is Toyota...and the brand is not ruling one out.
In a recent interview, Toyota Motor North America vice president of automotive operations Jack Hollis told Automotive News that "there is space" for a compact pickup below the Tacoma, but "the question is how to fill it." In addition, Cooper Erickson, vice president for product planning and strategy, noted that "it's something we need to be looking at and figure out."
Toyota building a small truck could work if Toyota needed it. Toyota has a versatile platform for that size vehicle. They have a lot of experience with hybrid powertrains. Branding-wise, a RAV4 with a truck bed and looks that tie it in with the Tacoma would be a formula that should work. (Toyota could also co-develop one if Subaru decided to go that route.)
But there would be a valid question about why Toyota would bother. Toyota can afford to be reactive; it is the apple cart that cars like the Maverick and Santa Cruz are trying to upset. And the fluidity in the market with the conversion to electric powertrains underway probably means caution is a prudent strategy.
Five of the 12 best-selling vehicles in America last year were Toyotas. The RAV4 was the best-selling non-pickup and best-selling two-row crossover. The Highlander was the best-selling exclusively three-row crossover. The Corolla was the best-selling compact sedan. The Camry was the best-selling midsize sedan. And the Tacoma was the best-selling midsize truck by far.
If we had to bet, it would be that Toyota focuses on getting the new Tacoma and potentially hybrid and electric versions of it to market unless the small trucks start denting their sales figures and the need for one becomes undeniable.