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SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 12:28 p.m.

Seems to me that one niche that has never been effectively filled is the small econo truck, and Toyota is in the perfect position to fill it.

Every little truck out there is still dismal in the fuel economy arena, except perhaps the old VW Rabbit diesel (the Caddy), which left a lot to be desired as a hauler.

But there is an ENORMOUS number of US buyers that simply want a 2 seater with a hauling box behind it. Now that fuel prices are up enough, I'm convinced there would be buyers for a fuel saving truck.

With the next generation Priuses on the horizon, I think there is a great opportunity.

So, here's my idea. The next generation Priuses will be plug and play, which makes them capable to function in reverse as an electricity generator, with the capability of powering a small house. What a cool idea for a little truck. Take the FWD drivetrain from the Prius and mount it under the bed driving the rear wheels of a lightened Tacoma (probably the best looking little truck on the market, which already has a lot of cool "tailgating" type features). The generator capabilites would make it great on construction sites, or as the ultimate tailgater. Give it 4WD (just because we like that kind of stuff), and a reduction gearbox for greater torque when hauling a load. The suspension will already handle the weight of the batteries, etc.

For those "made in the USA" types, manufacture this thing at that plant in Texas which is being so unsuccessful at building Tundras.

How could it loose?

Discuss...

bastomatic
bastomatic Dork
7/28/08 12:40 p.m.
SVreX wrote: But there is an ENORMOUS number of US buyers that simply want a 2 seater with a hauling box behind it. Now that fuel prices are up enough, I'm convinced there would be buyers for a fuel saving truck.

That's where I disagree. You and I would love it, but I don't think it would sell. Look at what has been produced in the past. VW Caddy, Subie Brat, El Camino, even the smallish pickups of Japan. None of them really sold much, and there's no reason it would sell a lot today.

People want a vehicle with 5 seats, 4-5 doors, great crash worthiness, and enough space to go on a roadtrip for a week. They want it to be good looking, and get about 30 mpg. And they're most willing to compromise on the mpg.

I'd say the Mazda 5 should be selling a ton, but I don't see many on the road. From my informal survey, people seem to think they're ugly.

I know I'm looking for one for about $12k...

Josh
Josh Reader
7/28/08 1:03 p.m.

My parents can't figure out why more people don't have Mazda5s either. They had a 1997 Nissan Quest from '97-01. 10 years later they bought the 5, which essentially does everything the Quest did (haul 4 people and a bunch of stuff or 6 people in a pinch), but is also fun to drive, has a much higher comfort/vehicle content level, gets around 50% better gas mileage, and actually cost less to buy in '07 than the Quest did in '97. Every family that thinks they need a Tahoe or Durango would likely find a 5 much more useful in real life. You'd think $4 gas would finally wake people up and start moving these things.

jrw1621
jrw1621 New Reader
7/28/08 1:11 p.m.

Having once looked at a Mazda 5, I think the biggest disapointment that I had with it was that the seats were not removable. It is made to be a people hauler (which is fine) but not a cargo hauler.

The truck you described is available from Ford if you live in Brazil in both pick-up and van (covered pick-up) version. https://www.ford.com.br

integraguy
integraguy Reader
7/28/08 2:22 p.m.

One reason the Mazda5 is not selling/has not sold? NO MARKETING. Another reason? It is pretty much a small minivan and folks are trying to leave the minivan and its "stigma' behind them.

That said, I considered a Mazda5 after reading about it here on the forums. I even found a leftover '07 with a MANUAL tranny....stupid me, I didn't jump on it.

petegossett
petegossett GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/28/08 2:31 p.m.
Josh wrote: My parents can't figure out why more people don't have Mazda5s either. They had a 1997 Nissan Quest from '97-01. 10 years later they bought the 5, which essentially does everything the Quest did (haul 4 people and a bunch of stuff or 6 people in a pinch), but is also fun to drive, has a much higher comfort/vehicle content level, gets around 50% better gas mileage, and actually cost less to buy in '07 than the Quest did in '97. Every family that thinks they need a Tahoe or Durango would likely find a 5 much more useful in real life. You'd think $4 gas would finally wake people up and start moving these things.

I'm curious, what real-world MPG are people getting from the Mazda 5? I was really thinking of getting one a couple years ago, but now that I've taught my wife to drive sanely, we're getting 25mpg per-tank from her 00 Mercury Villager Estate.

Josh
Josh Reader
7/28/08 2:43 p.m.

My mom is getting 28-30 in maybe 30% city and 70% highway/rural two-lane. The Quest they had was lucky to get 20 in the same setting.

petegossett
petegossett GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/28/08 2:55 p.m.

Thanks, that sounds very similar to us - and to what we were previously getting in our Villager.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 3:35 p.m.
bastomatic wrote:
SVreX wrote: But there is an ENORMOUS number of US buyers that simply want a 2 seater with a hauling box behind it. Now that fuel prices are up enough, I'm convinced there would be buyers for a fuel saving truck.
That's where I disagree. You and I would love it, but I don't think it would sell. Look at what has been produced in the past. VW Caddy, Subie Brat, El Camino, even the smallish pickups of Japan. None of them really sold much, and there's no reason it would sell a lot today. People want a vehicle with 5 seats, 4-5 doors, great crash worthiness, and enough space to go on a roadtrip for a week. They want it to be good looking, and get about 30 mpg. And they're most willing to compromise on the mpg. I'd say the Mazda 5 should be selling a ton, but I don't see many on the road. From my informal survey, people seem to think they're ugly. I know I'm looking for one for about $12k...

I couldn't disagree more.

That may be true in metropolitan areas, but not in the majority of the country. #1 selling vehicle for DECADES- Ford F-150. #2- Chevy Silverado.

The caddy was a flop because it was a foreign car at a time when that was truly un-cool, and it couldn't haul worth a crap. The Brat was a bit of a joke for similar reasons, plus those two ridiculous seats in the back.

El Caminos and Rancheros (as well as the GMC Cabellerro and the Autrailian Utes) have enjoyed decades of success as well.

I live in truck country. There is no getting around it, the majority of people here are going to have a truck. Just can't afford to feed them right now.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 3:45 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote: The truck you described is available from Ford if you live in Brazil in both pick-up and van (covered pick-up) version. https://www.ford.com.br

That's not a hybrid. It is a 1.6L flex fuel motor- runs on gas and ethanol. Probably gets around 38- 40 mpg. Not bad.

Keith
Keith GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/28/08 4:03 p.m.

How different would this truck be from a normal 4-cylinder Tacoma? Under $16k and 26 mpg highway (and if my friends' experiences are anything to go by, that's conservative) for the 2WD model, 3500 lb tow capacity. I do like the on-board generator idea, but I suspect the sort of guys that need on-board generators are also the sort of guys who need big trucks to do big things. Unless you're looking to sell to the same crowd that Honda aimed for with the Element - which accidentally ended up selling to a lot of seniors :)

littleturquoiseb
littleturquoiseb Reader
7/28/08 4:29 p.m.
Keith wrote: Unless you're looking to sell to the same crowd that Honda aimed for with the Element - which accidentally ended up selling to a lot of seniors :)

Which is the total oppisite of what Top gear thought would happen if they imported it to the UK....

See it now!

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 4:44 p.m.
Keith wrote: How different would this truck be from a normal 4-cylinder Tacoma? Under $16k and 26 mpg highway (and if my friends' experiences are anything to go by, that's conservative) for the 2WD model, 3500 lb tow capacity. I do like the on-board generator idea, but I suspect the sort of guys that need on-board generators are also the sort of guys who need big trucks to do big things. Unless you're looking to sell to the same crowd that Honda aimed for with the Element - which accidentally ended up selling to a lot of seniors :)

The Tacoma does get 26 mpg highway, but only 20 mpg city. I get 22 mpg city or highway with a factory tow rating of over 13,000 lbs and seating for 6 on my F-250 diesel. What's so impressive about those numbers for a Tacoma??

You could be right on the generator, but I'm not sure. I know a lot of guys in construction right now who have their big trucks parked and are driving gas savers to the construction site.

It would still be great fun for tailgating.

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/28/08 4:50 p.m.

The problem with this market segment is that the target buyers want a no-frills vehicle at a low price.

The problem with selling new vehicles to this segment is that Toyota and Nissan sold small, economical pickups that NEVER wear out for about 20 years straight.

If I need one (and I do,) then I'll buy an old one for cash (which I did.)

RussellH
RussellH New Reader
7/28/08 5:29 p.m.

Funny, you bring up this topic (as it's being discussed on several sites) and the fact that I recently bought my first pickup on a whim - a '92 V8 ext-cab 2wd Dakota. I love my old Dakota because it's not huge, still has a long enough wheelbase 131" and power to tow a car up the hills and unlike the other mid-sized trucks it weighs about the same as my E36 328 (3200lbs) so that leaves a lot of the total GCVWR for towing.

Having said that I think people want a multi purpose truck and the problem with a 2 seater is that you can't use it for anything except as a work truck if you have a family. I'd rather not have multiple cars for every slightly different purpose so if I were to give up my daily driver I'd want at least a decent sized ext-cab or a crew cab, that hauls the family to the backroads, goes to HomeDepot, tows my race car, gives decent gas mileage and looks nice too.

Now if a smaller truck could do all that I'd jump on it but right now the Frontier and Tacoma are probably the only substitutes for what I want and even then I'm not sure if they have the power (i.e. low gearing) to pull like the V8.

Keith
Keith GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/28/08 5:32 p.m.
SVreX wrote: The Tacoma does get 26 mpg highway, but only 20 mpg city. I get 22 mpg city or highway with a factory tow rating of over 13,000 lbs and seating for 6 on my F-250 diesel. What's so impressive about those numbers for a Tacoma??

What's impressive is that you're seeing those numbers on an F250 :) My experience with an unmodified 2006 Dodge 3500 Cummins is 14 mpg, under all conditions.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 6:03 p.m.

Well, that's true. My truck runs an after market performance chip, that's all.

I've got a buddy with a big Cummins. Only mods are an after market performance chip and bigger exhaust. Gets 26 mpg on a regular basis.

I'd happily compare apples to apples, but I know of no one running a performance chip on a Tacoma that increases it's fuel economy at all.

I've got another friend with a fully loaded Excursion. Only mod a performance chip- regularly gets 26-28 mpg.

Point is these are really simple, reasonable mods for diesels which are extremely easy to install. Lots of people get these kind of results and better. No comps for the Tacoma.

neon4891
neon4891 Dork
7/28/08 6:51 p.m.

OK, new idea. If these guys are getting mid-hi 20's in "chipped" 3/4 and 1 ton diesels, why not stick a small diesel in a taco' and then econo chip that?

Nashco
Nashco Dork
7/28/08 7:04 p.m.
SVreX wrote: So, here's my idea. The next generation Priuses will be plug and play, which makes them capable to function in reverse as an electricity generator, with the capability of powering a small house. What a cool idea for a little truck. Take the FWD drivetrain from the Prius and mount it under the bed driving the rear wheels of a lightened Tacoma (probably the best looking little truck on the market, which already has a lot of cool "tailgating" type features). The generator capabilites would make it great on construction sites, or as the ultimate tailgater. Give it 4WD (just because we like that kind of stuff), and a reduction gearbox for greater torque when hauling a load. The suspension will already handle the weight of the batteries, etc. For those "made in the USA" types, manufacture this thing at that plant in Texas which is being so unsuccessful at building Tundras. How could it loose? Discuss...

I don't know about loosening, but it would be a loser. First of all, why the heck would you put the motor in the back...wouldn't that kill the storage capacity of the pickup bed? How do you mount the transverse motor and independent suspension (even better, a Chapman strut setup) in the back of an existing design? What would you do with the front? How would you cool it? How would you give it 4wd, wouldn't that require a new transaxle design? Likewise for a gear reduction gearbox? What makes you think that the next gen Prius will allow you to put power out as well as in...as it is, they're having a hard enough time getting battery packs to keep up with real world (plus) abuse within an exceptional warranty (to comfort the naysayers). The GM hybrid truck would put power out and got decent fuel economy for a work truck (18/21), how many of those do you see at jobsites? There is no such thing as "the suspension will handle X" for such a complete redesign like you're suggesting, this type of vehicle would be 75+% new. When it was all said and done multiple years later it would cost significantly more than the competition while serving up worse performance in most metrics and with less reliability due to so many new designs and higher maintenance costs because of all the gee-whiz gadgetry being used in a utility vehicle.

On the other hand, you can grab a sawzall and some sheetmetal and make your Prius an El Camius as it is right now. This is much closer to reality than the concept you've come up with. I suspect a Caddy-ish type vehicle would be MUCH more successful today than what you've dreamed up. I think that the Pontiac Sport Truck (itza Ute!) will find a happy niche in the states for little investment money from GM and we'll see how the cartruck concept fares in modern times. As mentioned earlier, the El Camino and Ranchero sold in huge numbers in the states, much more than anything like the Rampage or Caddy, and the Sport Truck is obviously the modern equivalent. I don't think anybody is about to take on the project you're suggesting, but I don't work for Toyota so what do I know?

Oh yeah, the Mazda5 is uckin fugly. If I am paying that much for a vehicle, it darn sure better make me want to look at it twice. I can get ugly vehicles that drive just fine for a heck of a lot less money.

Bryce

oldopelguy
oldopelguy HalfDork
7/28/08 8:00 p.m.

I still don't understand why no-one has an electric motor/alternator that I can bolt to the front axle part of a transfer case and turn my existing 4WD pickup into a 2WD hybrid. Seems to me that you could take a regular 2WD Tacoma, install a 4WD transfer case and the motor assembly, then add a battery back and controller under the bed. Basic regen braking and start assist, nothing super fancy, and you get decent enough acceleration out of a 4-banger to make it tolerable to drive and yet still fuel thrifty.

Heck, if the aftermarket got onboard I'd spend a couple grand for a kit for my 2.2L S-10. Maybe I need to start development on it myself, come to think about it....

Add in the clutch pedal activated starter and idle-kill circuit the MINIs are using in Europe and it might be a tolerable daily driver that gets over 30mpg real world without a whole lot of work.

bastomatic
bastomatic Dork
7/28/08 8:00 p.m.

How has the Subaru Baja done?

I really think people overestimate the small truck market. I hope I'm wrong. However, i hope more people think the Mazda 5 is butt-ugly - it will help me get a good deal on a used one. Now if I could only find a manual trans.

Josh
Josh Reader
7/28/08 8:13 p.m.

I'm confused by the people who complain that the 5 is ugly - it sort of is what it is. That's what a 6 passenger small van with decent aero is going to end up looking like. It's like complaining that a refrigerator looks too boxy, or a knife looks too pointy. Of course, you could add 1000 pounds, 6" of ground clearance, butch up the styling, add absolutely ZERO utility, call it an SUV, and raise the price by 10 grand, and then maybe people would buy it.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
7/28/08 8:54 p.m.

OK, Nashco. You don't like it. You do bring up some good points.

The idea that the next gen Prius can put out power comes directly from Toyota. Mike O'Brien, Toyota's top product planner was quoted in the June 16 issue of US News and World Report saying, "There's enough power in a a Prius battery to power a 1200 square foot house". Article is entitled "Toyota's Next Turn", and it outlines a lot of things about the direction of the plug and play Priuses that are coming.

I don't really care how they build it. Details like engine location, 4x4, type of motor don't matter much to me. I just think it would be nice for the #1 hybrid builder in the world (and the #2 automaker in the world) to consider a hybrid truck. A REAL hybrid truck, not an over-priced porky mess like that GM you mentioned.

Nashco
Nashco Dork
7/29/08 11:45 a.m.

oldopelguy...the reason nobody's done what you're suggesting is because it would be a really poor performer or really expensive. If you make it cheap, it'll perform poorly because it won't have adequate gearing, added weight, low power, and added weight. You guys keep talking about putting things under the bed, under the truck, etc. Take a look under a new truck these days, I don't think there's as much room as you're imagining there is. There are already electric motor/alternator hybrids out there, but they help the crankshaft instead of the driveshaft, GM's BAS system. It's a quick and dirty solution, so it's not a huge jump in efficiency, but it's super flexible and for that I love it. I really wish GM integrated it with more vehicles in the short term, but they're so focused on their long term stuff (the Volt, etc.) that it has been low priority. I can't blame them for that, they need to focus on the long-term plan right now.

bastomatic...the Baja was a compromise from the get go. Doesn't have a big enough bed to support the 4 doors, and it doesn't have any hauling capacity because it uses existing Subie parts and only has a tiny bed so why would it need capacity? The Baja was obviously not intended for utility purposes, it was a styling gimmick. If they made a 2 door (aka Brat) I'd have bought one. Really, I would have. Not like people who say they want X but have never bought a new car and probably never will, or people who say company Y should make Z because they want to buy one used a decade later. I really would have bought one.

SVreX, I hadn't seen that article. I'll have to check it out, as I'm a big supporter of long term utilization of EVs to supplement the grid, but obviously with claims like that about short term implementation, I'll believe it when I see it. Oh, and in terms of a REAL hybrid...I don't think you should be slamming GM's effort with their hybrid half ton. That truck was released years ago. Sure, it might have been clunky, but it was nearly FIVE years ago that it came out and it's still your best choice if you want a hybrid pickup that has integrated 120v power output, utility, towing capacity etc. You can use it just like any big truck, to pull your jobsite trailer, power your equipment instead of using a generator, and still return pretty good fuel economy. Porky? Perhaps if you compare it to a small truck that doesn't exist anymore, but it's not any more porky than other new trucks with the same towing capacity. Overpriced? Well duh...it's the first of it's kind, targeting a small group of people with the latest in automotive technology, of course it costs more than the non-hybrid equivalent. Even then, they were only $25k-$30k depending on options. That's 5 grand more than a Prius, not bad all things considered IMO. Furthermore, the experience garnered with their first hybrid has helped make the new two-mode leaps and bounds better. Keep in mind that Toyota didn't exactly hit a home run with the first gen Prius, you can't knock GM for not having a home run with the first US market hybrid pickup either.

Josh wrote: I'm confused by the people who complain that the 5 is ugly - it sort of is what it is. That's what a 6 passenger small van with decent aero is going to end up looking like. It's like complaining that a refrigerator looks too boxy, or a knife looks too pointy. Of course, you could add 1000 pounds, 6" of ground clearance, butch up the styling, add absolutely ZERO utility, call it an SUV, and raise the price by 10 grand, and then maybe people would buy it.

It is what it is, which is UGLY. Those taillights have nothing to do with the body shape, utility, etc. They are just plain ugly, poorly executed, nasty looking junk that don't match the styling of the vehicle at all. That track built into the side of the car for the door to slide has nothing to do with aerodynamics, etc. Minivans have been hiding the door slider for a long while now, Mazda just didn't get the memo, it's ugly. The multiple small windows inserted into the doors (between the a-pillar and mirror and forward of the c-pillar) look ridiculous, serves no gain (except allowing you to roll the windows up and down further because they didn't account for that in their packaging). The back window (between c and d pillar) is painted to look like a porthole window while all of the other windows are squared off...what gives? I don't care for the front end styling, but that's pretty subjective and it's not nearly as horrible as the taillights so I'll leave that be.

It's quite clear that the Mazda group didn't spend much on styling, instead focusing on the chassis otherwise. That's fine and dandy for people who don't care if their car is ugly, but to deny its being ugly is silly. There are other minivans that aren't ugly, this one is ugly. While most minivans go for non-descript, they at least avoid ugly. Maybe you really like the cupholders or the color of the seats, whatever floats your boat, but the outside is ugly. The Aztek is ugly, sure it's a great utility vehicle but even their fans will admit they're styled poorly (especially the first model)...I would hope Mazda 5 owners would concede the same.

Bryce

bastomatic
bastomatic Dork
7/29/08 12:41 p.m.

My wife thinks it's cute.

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