The car/pickup concept that dates back to the first Ford Model T truck of 1925 has disappeared from the United States and been successful in few other markets during the past half century. In the United States, the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino sold well for over a decade after their late 1950s introduction but disappeared by 1987. Australia has its popular “ute” market segment which has thrived from the 1950s to today. Elsewhere, the car/pickup generally is a fringe vehicle if it exists at all, although some manufacturers such as Peugeot have long histories of producing them. Brazil, home to many automotive oddities based on foreign designs, may even surpass Australia as the world leader in car/pickups. There, the car/pickup is a hotly contested market segment that accounts for a large share of sales.
The car/pickup formula in Brazil is similar to in the U.S. and Australia, but with a significant difference: the base vehicles are typically small four cylinder economy cars that Americans would consider to be subcompacts. Americans saw similar vehicles only briefly during the late 1970s and early 1980s, in the VW Rabbit pickup, Subaru Brat, and Dodge Rampage. In Brazil, the most popular are from Fiat, which has produced similar vehicles since the late 1970s. Its current offering is the Strada, shown in the first photograph (the appropriately named Strada Working), based on the Fiat Palio supermini and not related to the Fiat Strada subcompact introduced in the U.S. in 1979. The VW Gol-based VW Saveiro, introduced in 1983, is another popular model (shown here in its 1983-94 first generation). Chevrolet and Ford produce similar vehicles in large numbers as well.
These small car/pickups serve exactly the same role that a compact or even full size pickup would fill in the U.S. They are the standard all-purpose light duty trucks, used by farmers, construction workers, deliverymen, and anyone else needing a personal-size cargo hauler. Being small, front wheel drive, and with engines in the 1.2 to 2.0 liter range puts them at a disadvantage for doing heavier work compared to even the smallest Toyota Hi-Lux, but in Brazil people manage fine with them.
Compact pickups and a few full size pickups are seen in Brazil, but in very small numbers compared to the car/pickups. Full size Chevrolet and Ford pickups dating back to the 1960s are common sights in Brazil, indicating that their size and weight capacity are coveted and make them worth keeping as long as possible, but high prices and import taxes make American full size pickups inaccessible to most Brazilians on the new car market.
Shown here is a Chevrolet Montana Conquest, based on GM’s subcompact Gamma (Opel Corsa) platform. There are two versions of the Montana, the Montana Conquest and the Montana Sport. The Montana Conquest can be seen as the Brazilian cousin to the El Camino Conquista, but with the bland “Conquista” name replaced by the foreign and exotic-sounding “Conquest.”
These very small car/pickups have not only succeeded in Brazil; they are one of the most popular classes of car. They are well suited to the needs of average light truck buyers in Brazil, because they get the job done and do it at relatively low cost, both in terms of initial purchase price and in their low fuel consumption in a country with very high prices. The stylishness of recent models is an added bonus. American car enthusiasts often express amusement at car/pickup creations and give them “____-amino” nicknames, but in Brazil, they are simply a normal part of the automotive scene.
I wrote about the Montana (also sold in Mexico as the Tornado, and in South Africa as the Utility) for another automotive website several months ago.
Although the Chevrolet is based on an older architecture, the amino-ization could easily be done on the current Sonic or Cruze platform, without too much difficulty.
I don’t think Chevy would have any problems selling them if they followed Sonic’s pricing structure, and they would do wonders for the CAFE figures, but I’m pretty sure GM is to busy in recall hell to have time to think about anything like this for the US.
Totally right… I think small trucks like these would sell. There was a strong demand for small pickups during the 70s and 80s. A lot of these trucks were sold as a fun vehicle at a small price. There are few cool entry level type vehicles left, yet we hear the automotive press talk about a cooling enthusiasm among millennialist to drive. I saw a Datsun L’il Hustler today and it reminded of high school. We drove the little trucks because they were cheap and fun. Even if the driving experience isn’t BMW like, piling your friends and gear into one car is fun.
I think GM knows that a small car-based truck would sell. The problem is it would also take sales from its highly profitable silverado business. It’s the same reason Ford killed the ranger. People say its because the platform was too old but the reality is ford makes more money on an ecoboost F150 than it did on a ranger.
I don’t think *you’re* wrong, but I do think GM is. These trucks can’t (hardly) tow, nor do they have much payload. People who use pickups for loads will buy a full-size anyhow, but I think something like this would open new markets, and not (noticeably) steal customers from the full-size line.
Look at it another way… Ford sells plenty of Transit Connects, but I really don’t think the TC steals much business from Econoline sales.
I don’t see anything in GM’s offerings as being both affordable and something younger people actually want. (Or me as a 40something) I can see perhaps a few people would buy one of these over a Silverado, but I see this kind of vehicle as re-creating a new market.
GM is one thing but I do wonder how hard it would be for Ford to make a Transit Connect pickup.
The Ranger is alive and well and built in Thailand but as it only comes in turbo diesel it wouldnt suit American conditions but its a best seller everywhere else.
True. My neighbour who works at Ford got one a few months back. It sits in the drive alongside his XR6 Turbo ute. having a bit each way? 🙂
The problem with all of the smaller trucks (Ranger/Dakota/Colorado) was that the profit margin on the full-sizers was so great that dealers could afford to mark them down to within a few hundred dollars of the a comparably equipped smaller truck and still make money.
With financing terms as long as they are these days, that ~$500 difference between a Ranger and a heavily discounted (but still profitable) F-150 was negligible when it came time to write the check each month.
Always interesting to read about typical regional car cultures. If you already have a small car, why not make a pick-up ?
Same car model as vans.
I spy a Fiat 127 hiding in there!
Correct, the old Fiat Fiorino vans and pick-ups were based on the Fiat 127.
Here’s a 2014 Fiat Fiorino. Probably available in the US soon as a Ram ProMaster SmallTown. (since the ProMaster City is somewhat bigger I believe)
Another website recently suggested Nissan was going to resurrect a compact truck based on a body on frame platform used 20+ years ago. That’s fine, but when I go looking for a replacement for my S10, I’d rather buy a car based compact truck like the Fiat Strada. I think there’s a market for a compact truck, just not in the “shrunken big truck” idiom. Something fun and economical that doesn’t visually mimic a Peterbuilt.
Even the current small trucks are way too big for my wants and needs.
What strikes me is that I see these Dacia pick-ups quite frequently now, since the norm has always been
(and still is) small vans or vans based on a car. As you probably know Dacia is Renault’s budget brand. Could well be that this is the cheapest commercial vehicle on our market now. Payload capacity is 825 kg (circa 1,800 lbs), not bad at all.
The old 1400 bakkie known here as Datsun 1200 left us in 2008 http://www.autosavant.com/2008/03/23/retirement-time-for-the-champion-of-africa/ being replaced by the Dacia logan pick-up who’s being sold in South Africa as the Nissan NP200 in South Africa. http://www.nissan.co.za/en/web/models/NP200/home/hpage.htm
Makes sense since Renault, Nissan and Dacia are all in the same family.
I found this one on a Brazilian site, now with a Renault badge.
Look, a Golden Oldie, based on a Renault 4.
For instance South-African GM droped the V6 / V8 Chevrolet Lumina UTE and replaced it with this smaller four cylinder UTILITY.
The coupe utility debuted in Australia in 1934 at Ford Au designed by Lew Brandt and every manufacturer in OZ built them Chevrolet had El Caminos down under 20 or more years before they appeared in the US (bodies by Holden),
I like these little utes. I like the rwd v8 powered muscle versions like in Australia/NZ but I can see the appeal of the smaller ones too. I hear tell that a Shelby version of the Dodge Rampage came VERY close to being approved. If only!
The Australian Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes have always been popular in New Zealand (although more for image rather than ability over the past few years). Their demise will rob GM and Ford of not only sales, but also a band of loyal tradesmen customers, so unsurprisingly Holden advertises the Colorado and Ford the Ranger quite a bit now. Neither have got quite the comfort and appeal (or V8 engine options!) of their car-based siblings though.
My brother just got issued a new Ranger vast improvement over the Holden Crewman he previously had especially in comfort he did 2500kms week before last and Adelaide to Melbourne on less than a tank of diesel, Rangers are the reason the Falcon is over in the ute department.
I bet these sell in far greater numbers than the Australian utes (and probably even if you include pickups, given they sell 4 times as many cars there in total (6x greater population). The other big pickup market is Thailand, where all of the Japanese makes build theirs now.
I bet a big barrier to them selling in the US would be the certification hurdles. I bet that if Chevrolet built a Sonic or Cruze-based ute they would have to certify every drivetrain again because it is a new body/model (what do they think will change?), not to mention the internal validation requirements. Too much investment on an uncertain market, they won’t pioneer it. I believe VW said they wouldn’t import the Amarok unless they could sell 100,000 per annum.
Look how well the Subaru Baja sold, but I assume part of its lack of sales was due to a lack of marketing. The Chevrolet Colorado is coming back to the U.S and I believe that is the closest we are ever going to get to having small pickups, Rancheros, and El Caminos again. Also, there are thousands of used pickups from Isuzu P’ups to GMC Sierras to choose from so those are other reasons why I doubt small pickups, Rancheros, and El Caminos will be making a come back.
The Rampage and Rabbit were popular in the early 80’s, but demand died down for them fairly quickly. I considered a V6 Frontier but when I found the base Titan was about the same price and only about 2 or 3 mpg lower, I went for the big truck. The 4 cylinder would have been only about 3k less in price, and it only came in extended cab and the back seat in those is basically useless. Even if the Frontier came in crew cab 4 cylinder, the bed would have been too small for my needs. If a front wheel drive car based truck was again offered, I think it would do well for a year or two, but not long term. Some of those Brazilian trucks are really cool, though.
Car-based pickups or Utes were also very popular in Israel until the East-Asian mini-pickups appeared on the scene, we even had a few local oddities like a 5-seater El-Camino (pic: Y. Rodin): such vehicles were classified as trucks for a long time with corresponding tax advantages and, hence, represented the cheapest way to a US-made vehicle (back then, admired and coveted).
Was that 5-seater ’79 Elky a factory creation? Wow. I’ve certainly never seen one before!
…as well as the Israeli-made Autocars (no connection with Autocar) Susita, featuring Ford mechanicals and chassis designed by Britain’s Reliant (pic. I. Haramaty):
as well as the Willys Compact, which I suppose is like a car-based pickup in reverse (just like Ford’s early 60s unibody F100)…
Whoa, never seen that before. Its cool alright, but also a bit pointless since there was a Willys pickup also. Not sure what the advantage of this would be.
As a three-time Subaru MV/Brat owner, I really want the Fiat Strada Adventure Locker to be sold in the US in the cab configuration pictured below. However, even if Fiat did something completely unlikely and put it on the market here, there are three things it would need to have for me to seriously consider purchasing one:
– A turbodiesel engine putting out somewhere in the region of 130bhp and 200lb./ft. of torque.
– Real 4WD, preferably with a selectable centre diff thrown in for good measure. FWD plus an E-Locker doesn’t completely cut it when you need both sets of wheels to be powered in order to get through mud / sand / snow. More:
– Keep the E-Locker as an item on the option sheet and make it available at both ends if at all possible.
I wouldn’t even care if they kept the somewhat goofy name in this market as long at least the first two are on the cards.
The reality is that for what I need in a trucklet, the Subaru Brat has served my needs remarkably well over the years. But Subaru’s not making anything equivalent, Brats started having some parts availability issues a few years back, and finding one that hasn’t been heavily neglected / molested or that isn’t suffering from serious tinworm is going to be a real challenge. There’s the Baja, but frankly it’s a vehicle that struck me as being basically the right idea hampered by very flawed execution.
Which makes the Strada Adventure Locker look really appealing: it is pretty much the modern Brat; it just needs another diff at the rear to truly fill that niche. From what I understand, though, it was never really designed to have a propshaft running down the middle, so offering it in 4WD isn’t likely to happen. But if they did do it, it’d probably sell fairly well – economical, a degree of actual capability in the dirt, and flexibility and usability on a daily basis would likely tempt more than a few people in this part of the world into one.
Of course, Fiat probably wouldn’t want the in-house competition with the upcoming Renegade, even though they’re entirely different types of vehicles – and by all accounts it sounds as though FCA has decided that Americans wouldn’t want it anyway. I’ll plan on bringing one in around 2035 or thereabouts…
Im a fan of the Baja also, but ONLY as a turbo/manual trans model. For my tastes, something like this only really appeals to me if it can do the performance car thing too. That Strada looks cool, and Id like to see that become the next Rampage. I agree, it must off a decent AWD system…and Id like it to carry the Caliber SRT-4’s 280 hp turbo 2.4 liter. Make it happen, Dodge! Rampage SRT-4 has a nice ring to it!
Love these regional oddities. Another nice one, Robert.
Does Brazil tax vehicles based on size or engine displacement? Or is it just a matter of smaller trucks and vans being more practical based on price, fuel costs, traffic and parking conditions, etc.?