Why the Honda Ridgeline Pickup Is Driving Off Into the Sunset
By Rick Kranz, Automotive News
The Honda Ridgeline is a good example of what happens when an automaker abandons a model.
After much fanfare with its introduction in 2005, little was done to upgrade the mid-sized pickup. Ridgeline's plummeting sales are no surprise considering the lack of sheet metal changes and significant engineering improvements over the seven-year period.
The pickup's best year was 2006 when 50,193 sales were tallied. After that point, it's been all down hill. Last year, sales for the 12-month period totaled a 16,142, a 2 percent drop from the previous year. This year's sales through August nosedived 49 percent, to 5,776 vehicles.
While the Honda Ridgeline does not fill everyone's pickup needs, nor was it intended to so, it is a credible pickup. Despite the fact that it was developed off a front-drive platform, it has a 1,500-pound-plus payload capacity and tows up tow 5,000 pounds. Four-wheel drive is standard.
And, from what I hear, Ridgeline owners like the pickup, especially the towing capability, the ride, the handling, and the standard tailgate that swings down or to the side like a door.
Honda doesn't talk about future products. But Automotive News reported last month that the Honda Ridgeline will be discontinued in about two years. Based on conversations with industry sources, the story said a smaller pickup is under consideration, derived from the Honda CR-V platform.
Presuming less payload and towing capacity than the Ridgeline, I can't imagine why a smaller pickup based on a front-drive platform would be a more successful product formula for Honda.
Content provided by AutoWeek.
Now I hear Honda is about to end the Ridgeline production. It is a very bad mistake. And an even worse error would be to replace it with a smaller truck. The Ridgeline is "right sized". And with the right marketing, perhaps owner focused, it can be the right truck for countless others who feel they must have the typical 1/2 ton or higher macho man truck but who really don't have the need for it. The Ridgeline allows me to haul stuff as well as passengers in a limitless variety of configurations. And the trunk in bed is pure genius and very handy for packing valuables when you travel across the country. When friends ride in my Ridgeline for the very first time, their typical reaction is that they are impressed by its ride, comfort and flexibility for load and passengers. One of my 6'3" friends commented that this was the very first truck where he had ridden in the back seat that allowed him a couple of inches between his knees and the front seat. So Honda, don't end the Ridgeline, refine it by listening to current owners and devise better marketing strategies for it. It will sell.
The pickup truck for people who didn't like pickup trucks.
Overall, it wasn't a bad idea. It served its purpose well. There was one major problem. There was a very limited number of people who this truck would really work for. Once those people have one, why would anyone else every buy one? Since they made very few updates to the truck, those who had one, didn't really have any reason to buy another.
Very similar to the Avalanche. Also a truck for a very limited number of people. But GM constantly updated the truck and even made a second generation. Probably the main reason why they continue to sell despite gas prices where they are.
I didn't like the Ridgeline at first but it grew on me after a while. My brother-in-law has one and tells me its the best "car" he has ever owned (and he has owned a host of different cars over the years). The fact that he called it a "car" is pretty telling. Yes, it looks like a truck. It even has some truck traits. However, this is really just another crossover SUV. It's based on a the same platform as the Odessy and Pilot which are based on an expanded Accord platform. In other words it really is just a big car. Unfortunately, it is also a niche vehicle. It's not the kind of truck a tradesman needs which really limits its appeal. Instead it had to compete with other SUV's for customers who needed something with more truck characteristics than, say, a Pilot. That really limits the target market. GMC found that out with the failed Envoy XUV (remember that one with sliding rear roof?). So everyone who needed this niche vehicle bought it. The problem is they are so well built and, typical of SUV's, un-abused that they did not require frequent replacement. That combined with no real updates or refinements makes for a doomed platform. It's ashamed really. I wouldn't mind having one. It truly is a great utility vehicle.
Honda's emphisis seems to have changed from customer service and outstanding product quality to high profits, lower quality standards and poor decisions on components; PAX tires & wheels, poorly performing Blue Tooth and navigation componenets, power steering pumps that fail, wheel and suspension bearing failures and finally customer relations that leave much to be expected.
They only offer a 3/35 warranty (one of the shortest in the industry) which may reflect Honda's lack of confidence in their product line.
The Ridgeline seems to reflect Honda's foundering leadership and performance. It is hardly a small pick up.
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