The $15,000 pickup

Since the Ford Ranger and the Mazda B-Series have been laid to rest, after almost two decades of service without any major makeover, the market for cheap, feathery-light-duty pickups is open for grabs.

In Canada, the lowest-priced pickup currently is the 2012 Toyota Tacoma at $22,100. To me, that seems like a lot of dough for a compact, bare-bones 4x2 truck; ok, it’s got A/C, a CD player, power windows and a telescopic steering column.

Why can’t we have a basic, simple pickup truck for about $15,000? Everyone needs a pickup at some point in time, to move a bulky appliance, to bring junk to the dump, to haul a stack of lumber or to load up an ATV. Friends with pickups are good friends.

And in the town where I live, the public works don’t need V8-powered F-150s to drive around scraping up roadkill while merely hauling a shovel, a rake and a few safety cones.

Keep it basic, keep it simple: 16” steel wheels, a torquey 4-cylinder engine (how about turbodiesel?), manual or automatic transmissions, a 4-speaker stereo with a USB port, and A/C for those who can’t stand driving with the windows down. In fact, the Tacoma’s got everything I’d need in a pickup, besides a $7,000 rebate.

I guess no manufacturer seems to think that there is potential. Or maybe they just don’t have a product that can be sold here for $15K. Among other issues, import fees such as the Chicken Tax prevents imported light trucks to be sold in the US, and subsequently Canada, at a fair price.

That’s a shame, because there are several manufacturers with small pickups sold in other markets: the Mitsubishi L200, the Volkswagen Amarok and the Mazda BT-50, to name a few. On the other hand, I doubt that even without the import fees, those trucks could be sold here for $15,000.

One manufacturer that sees potential for cheap pickups is India’s Mahindra. Since 2009, they’ve been announcing plans to import their models in the US, and maybe Canada, but that’s not going down too well. Legal disputes with what was to become their US distributor, plans to offer the pickup as a knockdown kit to escape the Chicken Tax (which means shipping them in pieces and building them in the US), as well as poor fuel economy pretty much ruined the initial plan.

Another solution would be car-based pickups, such as the Chevrolet El Camino, the Ford Ranchero or the Dodge Rampage. Their payload capacity wouldn’t be as great as in a real pickup, though, and it doesn’t look nearly as cool.

For a good, reliable and low-priced compact pickup, I guess a used (oops, I meant pre-owned) model is the only way to go. For now.