LOS ANGELES — As FCA US and Ford Motor Co. prepare their returns to the midsize pickup segment over the next several months, a survey suggests consumers are taking a detailed look at the offerings and that new midsize pickup customers may migrate from some surprising segments.

The survey of 1,460 current vehicle shoppers — conducted in mid-November by Autolist.com in response to the coming introduction of the Jeep Gladiator and Ford Ranger — found that 62 percent of those polled would either "definitely" consider a new compact or midsize pickup or "probably" buy one, compared with 33 percent who werent interested.

The survey also found that the greatest pool of potential new buyers is likely to be among sports car and coupe owners, while the least interested shoppers for smaller pickups were owners of full-size pickups.

Autolist says 38 percent of owners of sports cars or muscle cars would "definitely" consider buying a compact or midsize pickup, along with 33 percent of coupe owners. Meanwhile, just 19 percent of owners of full-size pickups shopping for new vehicles said they would consider the smaller trucks.

If the surveys findings are representative of the overall buying pool, it would be great news for automakers selling big and small pickups. The Detroit 3 killed their midsize pickup offerings at different points years ago, in large part because they felt the smaller pickups — with thinner margins — were cannibalizing potential sales of more profitable full-size pickups.

But if car or crossover owners are willing to dip a toe into the midsize pickup segment, while full-size pickup buyers remain where they are, that would be a recipe for greater profitability across the board.

"Were about to enter a golden era for lifestyle trucks," said Chase Disher, chief analyst at Autolist.com.

"Consumers have watched unrefined SUVs from the past evolve into very desirable crossovers today, and our study shows that they expect the same evolution in lifestyle trucks."

The survey found that 80 percent of respondents believe todays compact and midsize pickups have evolved significantly from their previous versions in terms of comfort, safety and fuel efficiency, with both men and women citing the potential usefulness of the pickup bed as the main driver for why they would consider smaller pickups. Women also cited reliability as a main consideration for moving into the segment.

The survey also found that consumers had very strong brand awareness of existing vehicles in the segments and those to come. The Toyota Tacoma had the highest name recognition in the segments, with 86 percent of respondents saying they had heard of it, followed by the Ford Ranger at 76 percent.

Among eight existing or prospective nameplates tested in the survey, only one — the Hyundai Santa Cruz, at 26 percent — had name recognition under 50 percent, the survey found.

Hyundai has said its developing a compact pickup that could reach the U.S. in 2021, based on the Santa Cruz concept shown in Detroit in 2015, but the vehicle hasnt yet been greenlighted for production.

Source: Autonews

December 1, 2018