Are Japanese pickups really different from American trucks?
The American pickup a truck The market has been one of the strongest segments in the automotive industry for years. Last year, the top-selling vehicles, not just trucks, real vehicles, were three American-made pickup trucks. This dominance in the industry hints at something that could be very different between American trucks and Japanese pickups.
The Detroit Big Three make the best trucks on the market
If sales figures are any tell-tale sign, the top three selling vehicles in the United States last year were pickup trucks from Detroit’s Big Three automakers. This sales dominance shows us that Americans choose the Chevrolet Silverado (519,774 sold), Ram Trucks (569,388 sold) and Ford F-Series Trucks (726,004 sold) more than any other vehicle on the market.
The top-selling Japanese pickup truck in 2021 was the midsize Toyota Tacoma, which achieved 252,490 total sales last year.
Japanese Pickup Trucks Gave Us The First Monocoque Trucks
Most trucks are made using body-on-frame construction, a construction proven to provide more strength and capability, but are a little harsher when it comes to overall ride quality. When the first generation of the Honda Ridgeline arrived, it became the first unibody pickup on the market.
The second-generation Ridgeline is the highest-rated pickup truck by US News and World Report. Interestingly, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz, a newcomer to the rejuvenated compact truck market, is second. The Santa Cruz is another unibody truck, and it’s from a Korean automaker, which we may need to add to this conversation when more trucks hit the market.
American half-ton trucks offer better towing and payload
It should come as no surprise that American trucks beat Japanese pickups for towing and payload. The best half-ton trucks for towing are:
- Ford F-150 – 14,000 pounds
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 – 13,300 lbs.
- Ram 1500 – 12,750 pounds
- Toyota Tundra – 12,700 pounds
- Nissan Titan – 9,320 pounds
The story is almost the same when we look at the payload these trucks can carry. The best half-ton trucks for payload are:
- Ford F-150 – 3,325 pounds
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 – 2,443 lbs.
- Ram 1500 – 2325 pounds
- Toyota Tundra – 1,940 pounds
- Nissan Titan – 1,646 pounds
Japanese trucks carried the torch for the midsize pickup market during the American break
A few years ago, the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Ford Ranger were not made or sold in the United States. The Ford Ranger continued to be sold in foreign countries, but not here. Meanwhile, the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline carried the torch for this truck market.
Today we see more midsize and compact trucks than in nearly two decades. More and more new trucks are appearing every year. The Toyota Tacoma continues to be the top-selling truck in this segment. The Chevy Colorado comes second with 73,008 models sold in 2021.
Only American trucks are still offered with diesel powertrains
GM and Ford have recently upgraded the diesel powertrains of some of their trucks. Ram and GM models have been the only names with half-ton trucks offering diesel engines for the past few years. GM has leaned heavily into the diesel truck market with midsize trucks powered by diesel engines, but that’s changing for 2023.
While it’s unclear how long American half-ton trucks will continue to offer diesel powertrains, the Detroit Big Three’s heavy-duty pickup trucks all offer diesel engines.
Why are there no Japanese pickup trucks in the heavy truck category?
It’s a good question that doesn’t have a good answer. The Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan never had larger models that reached the three-quarter or one-ton classes. The Nissan Titan XD came close, but that model has since been dropped from the lineup.
All three US automakers offer trucks in the heavy-duty categories, giving us the Ford Super Duty, Chevrolet and GMC HD, and Ram 2500/3500 models.
Answering the original question: are Japanese vans really different from American trucks?
Yes, Japanese pickups are extremely different from American trucks. While Japanese trucks carried the mid-size truck category and brought the first unibody model, the most powerful and capable trucks continue to be made by American automakers.