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Cato: The 'Japanese Three' must crack the full-size pickup market

Honda has released this sketch of the next-generation Ridgeline

Honda

We might give Japanese auto makers a participation ribbon for their efforts in large pickups.

Yes, Nissan with the Titan, Toyota with the Tundra and Honda with the Ridgeline all deserve an "E" for effort.

Canadian sales numbers tell the story through the end of September: 2,354 Titans, 5,004 Titans and 1,471 Ridgelines. Ford of Canada sells more F-Series pickups in a month than the Japanese in nine.

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This despite the promise to crack the North American full-size pickup code. Toyota spent $1.3-billion (U.S.) to build a new pickup plant in Texas for the Tundra. The Tundra plant now also builds Tacoma mid-size rigs.

Nissan celebrated the Titan's launch, and then later explored with Chrysler the possibility of rebadging Rams as Titans to save money. Nissan now promises a new Titan with a light duty diesel.

This week Honda announced that a reinvented Ridgeline will go on sale "in less than two years," with production of the current one ending this year.

2014 Honda Ridgeline SE Honda Honda

The original Ridgeline had some cool features in play: Car-like unibody construction, in-bed trunk and a dual-action tailgate. Honda surely has some tricks planned for the next one, too.

But tricks won't fix this problem. What will? A Japanese Three commitment to big pickups, just as the Detroit Three have committed to making small and mid-size cars. In pickups, that means a long roster of engine choices, rear-ends, bed sizes, cab configurations and all the rest.

The Japanese Three have left full-size pickups to Detroit. Why? This is a hugely lucrative segment and the foundation of the Detroit Three's entire business. And the Japanese Three have given the Detroit Three a free ride here.

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How odd.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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