The topic of compact pickup trucks is one that isn't going away. With rumors that the Colorado and Canyon are nearing the end of the line, that the Ford Ranger could disappear (or may be replaced by the world market Ranger), and that the Dakota is also very possibly on its way out, one really has to wonder what the compact truck segment is going to look like in five years. If there were no replacement for the Ranger, Colorado/Canyon, and Dakota, what would that leave? The Tacoma and Frontier? Perhaps the Mahindra?

When a market segment isn't selling all that well, it doesn't make sense for a manufacturer to invest a lot of money in a new product. I get that. It makes that investment a huge gamble. On the other hand, the first company that attempts to revive a segment others have abandoned could really clean up. If the automakers were ready to revive the compact truck market, they would have two basic roads to take: create a small body-on-frame pickup or consider the idea of a unibody.

Most people who buy compact trucks aren't trying to tow a large trailer. It would be safe to say that people who buy compacts like the ability to park in the garage, enjoy the improved fuel economy, and like having a decent payload capacity. One of the big problems with compact trucks is that the harder manufacturers work to make them nearly as capable as full-size trucks, the closer they get in price to the larger trucks. And it might just be that people who like smaller pickups aren't expecting the capability of a full-size; they want a vehicle that provides a space to put grubby gear that can be cleaned out with a garden hose. While something like a crossover may seem to be a compelling idea, it's tougher to clean spilled mulch out of a cargo area's carpet, and most small crossovers kind of look like gumdrops anyway.

Enter the unibody pickup. They haven't done all that well lately; the Ridgeline is interesting, but odd styling has hindered sales, in my opinion, and the Subaru Baja looked like a wagon cut off behind the C-pillar. There may be a real market for unibody trucks. Automakers could reduce the cost of the new truck by sharing its platform with a crossover, or even a car. There would be some key obstacles to overcome, the biggest of which is structural rigidity. But I think it can be done.