Honda commits to second generation Ridgeline pickup

Honda did not release any technical details of the new Ridgeline or indicate whether it would remain the same size as the current model.
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Despite slow sales, Honda is not giving up on the Ridgeline pickup. Honda Motor Co. said today it will launch an all-new second generation of the Ridgeline within two years.

The vehicle will be new from the wheels up and built in Honda’s Lincoln, Ala., plant, home of the current model.

Honda plans to end production of the first-generation Ridgeline in June, leaving a gap in production. Depending on demand for the current model, dealers may run out of Ridgelines before the new one is available. But Honda spokesman Steve Kinkade said if that does happen, dealers will not be out of the truck for an extended period of time.

Honda did not release any technical details of the new Ridgeline or indicate whether it would remain the same size as the current model. There’s also no word on whether it will continue to be based on the Odyssey minivan platform or get unique underpinnings.

The Ridgeline, facing full-size truck competitors from Ram, Ford, GM, Toyota and Nissan, is the segment’s lowest volume seller. Through November, Honda has sold 16,160 Ridgelines, up about 29 percent over last year. The company recently introduced a special edition model for 2014.

The U.S. market for smaller pickups may gather momentum after GM unveiled its Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

"It's likely Honda sees a potential second coming for the small/midsize truck segment," Brauer said in an e-mail. "And if you consider the potential for economic growth, along with lower gas prices, over the next few years they could be right. Between housing starts rising and more disposable income for 'lifestyle' activities and recreation the demand for compact trucks could grow substantially.

"The Ridgeline did offer an impressive set of segment-first features, and with today's technology it's possible to create unibody platforms with the strength of yesterday's body-on-frame designs," Brauer added. "A new Ridgeline with the current model's innovative features, plus the ability to tow/haul like a traditional full-frame truck, could actually be quite compelling."

Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, selling 242,049 since its debut. It won North American Truck of the Year, partly due to its clever layout and innovative cargo stowage system. But its minivan-based underpinnings meant the Ridgeline could not tow and haul heavy loads like a conventional truck, and that may have limited its appeal.

Honda says the new Ridgeline is being developed in the United States.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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