Can Honda Compete in the Full-Size Truck Market?

honda car

To say that the full-sized pickup market is both flooded and fiercely competitive would be an understatement. Some automakers have even split their truck lines off from the rest of their models, promoting them independently to customers exclusively shopping for full-size pickups.

With so many top brands already engaged, it’s been tough for outsiders to get into the US pickup market. Toyota managed, over time, with the Tundra, as has Nissan with the Titan. Both have garnered strong fan bases after years of great reviews from both consumers and consumer reporting publications.

Meanwhile, Honda has been content to compete well in the midsize sedan and SUV marketplace, with its Accords and Pilots filling driveways all over the country. But, Honda also sells a pickup, the Ridgeline, which has failed to capture the US market’s attention and affection. Many American consumers see another SUV with an uncovered cargo area. For the toughness of a pickup, they’re looking elsewhere. Honda is hoping to change that with the newest version of the Ridgeline.

Gone is the SUV profile and crossover front end. The new Ridgeline “feels” more like a truck when you look at its larger, more aggressive front end and more truck-like profile. But that’s not the only thing getting a makeover in Honda’s campaign to convince US truck buyers that this is a newer, better, more rugged Ridgeline.

New commercials show the Ridgeline in an environment similar to what consumers are accustomed to seeing in Jeep commercials. Even the chiming bell that typically precedes Honda car commercials is tossed, replaced by a driving bass drum. In a final, all cards on the table, move by Honda to go directly after Ram, Ford, and Chevy truck fans, the spokesman for the new Ridgeline is former WWE Superstar John Cena.

In the commercial, Cena speaks with his WWE character’s trademark bluntness, “Don’t let the comfort fool you… If you let yourself think Honda trucks and SUVs were delicate machines, you’d be wrong!”

Speaking to the media about their new campaign, Jay Joseph, head of marketing for American Honda Motor Company, says they’re hoping people see Honda’s trucks and SUVs in a new light, “Our vehicles are a lot more capable than you might expect at first blush…”

Translation: It may not be a Jeep, but it will work up against most of the other half-tons in American driveways. That might not sound like much of a message, but it’s a definitive starting point for Honda, which needs to play the long game – much like Toyota and Nissan – if it wants to change the way American truck buyers perceive the brand. The opportunities are there if the company plans and executes it properly.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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