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2017 Toyota Tacoma Sales vs. Chevy Colorado Show Truth About Midsize Trucks

With every midsize truck on the market down in March, we now know the facts about the market share of Tacoma, Colorado, Frontier, Ridgeline, and Canyon when production capacity is not an issue.

For the past couple of years the midsize truck market has been in a strong growth mode. Once the all-new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins entered a market that Toyota had been dominating with the Tacoma for decade, everyone assumed that the new design of the GM truck would mean Toyota's sales would decline and GM's would continue to grow. The slowdown in auto sales has provided us with some unexpected clarity. Since every midsize truck sold in America was down in March, we now know the truth. The Toyota Tacoma still dominates this market, and Toyota still outsells the second truck in sales by 2 to 1.
Tacoma vs. Colorado In a Slow Month
We've been waiting for the market to slow down temporarily (we hope) to see what would happen. Those who claim that Chevy's sales have been limited by production, really have no excuses in March. Every GM truck, both large and small, sold at double-digit percentages less than last March. Therefore, since the December maintenance shutdown of the production lines has been completed recently, and given that March was a 31 day month with zero holidays, GM's workers sure had plenty of time to build trucks. We now know that the GM twins have indeed reached their market penetration point. That point is roughly 10,000 trucks combined per month.
Production Below Capacity
Toyota's sales were also below its maximum build capacity, but not by much. The Tacoma shares its production line with Tundra, so occasionally, Toyota will build up some Tundras at the expense of the Tacoma. Conveniently, the Tundra was also down. Thus, we now know that the actual monthly sales of the Tacoma at about 17,000 units vs. the Colorado's approximately 8,500 units is about where the market ends up when both companies have enough trucks on the lot to satisfy demand.

The Nissan Frontier continued to sell extremely well for a truck designed back before round tires. With just under 7,000 Frontiers sold, Nissan came danger close to matching the sales of the super-new Colorado, which now has an improved engine and transmission, just in its second year of production. Nissan's product planners should be given a huge bonus for taking the past three years off and leaving the Frontier old-school. (Conclusion on page 2)

Sales of the Ridgeline are technically way up. How far up? Honda literally reported a sales increase of 972,300% for Ridgeline this month. We are not kidding. The sales report had that figure listed. That is the result when a company sells exactly one truck in March of 2016 and then sells 3,778 the next year in that same month. We say the Ridgeline is "down" because it has sold in larger numbers in recent months. We should also mention that this author thinks the Ridgeline is the best truck sold in America right now in case bias is on your mind.

So, after many months of reporting that Toyota and GM were both selling at the maximum of their capacity, we now know what happens when they don't. The result is that the Toyota Tacoma absolutely crushes every other competitor in sales. Don't tell Consumer Reports. They reported just two weeks ago that the Tacoma was one of the 10 worst vehicles in America. Apparently, truck buyers have a different viewpoint.


Dale (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 8:21AM

Are McDonald's burgers better than a New York Steak? No. But they sure sell a lot more of those burgers. Higher sales numbers doesn't mean than that product is a better product than another product that isn't as popular. It just means there are a lot of dumb people in this world.

John Goreham    April 7, 2017 - 1:33PM

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

No, I get what Dale meant. The Colorado and Canyon are more sophisticated than the Tacoma for sure. But it is not a night and day difference and many buyers don't care. They like trucks to be trucks. Like the Ridgeline chat below explains. Thanks for your comments.

Zack (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 9:26AM

In reply to by Dale (not verified)

In your example, both items would have to cost the same and be as widely available. The Tacoma outsells everything else because of it's extremely long track record of reliability and off-road usability.

Todd (not verified)    January 30, 2018 - 10:07PM

In reply to by Zack (not verified)

“The Tacoma outsells everything else because of it's extremely long track record of reliability and off-road usability.”

Extremely long reliability record? Guess you didn’t read about the recent $4 billion settlement by Toyota, over numerous model years for the Tacoma and Tundra, because of severe frame rusting.

Veras (not verified)    November 8, 2019 - 5:46AM

In reply to by Dale (not verified)

Exactly just a hype of what it use to be for two decades strong. Me and my brother bought a pair to satisfy our rivalry. His Tacoma (X) outperformed in a drag race.15 years later my 04 3.5 5 cylinder has outperformed from reliability to mpg. Owned both 4runners and S10’s. 4.3 is a workhorse and why a revised version still exists,.

Lee (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 11:40AM

Mr. Goreham, I don't think it's fair to say that the Ridgeline is the best truck of the four. Honda has done a wonderful job of designing a pickup truck that's built like a car - it serves drivers who don't need a "real" pickup truck that's built on a separate frame. Similarly, I wouldn't compare a unibody SUV with a body-on-frame SUV.

John Goreham    April 7, 2017 - 1:30PM

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

Good point, but I have driven the Tacoma and Ridgeline this past year and for many, the Ridgeline is much better. I can't think of anything I would ever want to do with a compact pickup (and I have owned one) that the Ridgeline would not do better. Including take home plywood and sheetrock from the home center. For those that need a more rugged truck with a C-channel frame, the Tacoma would be better. For extreme off-roading the TRD Pro stands above the Ridgeline too.

Lee (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 2:21PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Funny you should say that. I needed a pickup for the same reasons you did and would have bought a Ridgeline for sure if Honda offered a 2-door, long bed model because I don't need a back seat but I do need a long bed to carry bulky building materials. So here I am with a 2-door Tacoma TRD Off Road - great truck but complete overkill for me - every Tacoma 4X4 is hugely heavy and built to go off road, and I never go off road (unless by accident). My consolation is reliability and resale value, but Hondas are just as good in those 2 areas.

John Goreham    April 7, 2017 - 3:01PM

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

Exactly. I was surprised to find out that only the Ridgeline can carry an 8 x 4 sheet of plywood or wallboard flat in its cargo area (tailgate down of course). But just one bed length that is halfway between short and long. I used a Mitsubishi Mighty Max for landscaping for years and it was much smaller than the midsize trucks today.

Lee (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 11:56AM

You failed to mention that the reason for Nissan's sales is their discount pricing. Those dinosaurs will get you from point A to point B and Nissan found that if you practically give them away, many buyers will take them. Were they to be priced equally, anyone who would buy a 13-year-old design over a brand-new design would have his head examined by a licensed professional.

Scott Johnson (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 10:47PM

In reply to by Byron (not verified)

My Duramax Colorado tows about 8000 lbs (I tow my 6000 lb / 28 ft RV with it at least twice a month... and it averages 32 mpg. Not doing that with a Tacoma (or any half-ton for that matter).

Not sure what the plywood thing is about, fits fine in mine. Use a spray in liner, not a crappy plastic thing.

Dave (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 6:21PM

Does that include the GMC Canyon also if not adding the siblings together would give GM A larger number.

John Goreham    April 8, 2017 - 11:50AM

In reply to by Dave (not verified)

Good question Dave. GM sold 2,490 Canyons in March. 8,426 Colorados. Through three months of sales the combined average of the Colorado plus the Canyon combined works out to about 10,000 compact trucks per month for GM. The total GM compact trucks sold in Q1 is 29,885. In the story, I say that the average is about 10.000 trucks per month (end of second paragraph)

Scott Johnson (not verified)    April 7, 2017 - 10:40PM

I tow my 6000 lb 26 foot Kodiak travel trailer all over the western mountain ranges with my new Colorado. I think younger buyers like the Toyata name and whatever, but the Tacoma and Frontier are not really 'comparable' in capabilities.

Interesting that only the Colorado numbers are cited, since GMC also sells the Canyon and now the Canyon Denali. There is also a significant shortage of the data Duramax Diesel models on the lots, and the new special edition Raptor-type ones are never

as for the Tundra... just an oversized underpowered half ton with horrific fuel economy. I'll take a 2500 HD or F250 any day if I had a larger

Thomas (not verified)    May 10, 2017 - 12:13AM

For the Frontier being so old, it shur holds it's own in sales..I will take my 2015 Frontier 4x4 v-6 SV before a Tacoma... It has a strong V-6 and a very strong frame plus it was $4,500 less than the Tacoma.

Todd (not verified)    October 22, 2017 - 8:29PM

“Don't tell Consumer Reports. They reported just two weeks ago that the Tacoma was one of the 10 worst vehicles in America. Apparently, truck buyers have a different viewpoint.”

Now that comment above is incredibly stupid. Really, no one buys an inferior or poorly made product? So, lame author, please explain why all those Tacoma’s were sold that had severe frame rusting issues. And Consumer Reports isn’t the only reviewer that doesn’t give Tacoma’s a stellar review. Hardcore Tacoma fans love good reviews and blame any poor reviews on bias. It’s easy to make that silly claim, but people making that claim only provide rhetoric and not facts.