Why Honda's Ridgeline pickup is driving off into the sunset

This year's sales of the Honda Ridgeline plummeted 49 percent, to 5,776 vehicles through August. Pictured is the 2012 Ridgeline.
Rick Kranz is product editor for 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 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 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 CR-V platform. Honda denies that it is discontinuing the Ridgeline, and also says it has no intention of building a CR-V-based pickup truck.

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.

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