Analysis

Plan on these changes to trucks from Ford, GM, and others in the second half of 2020

Ford is just one of the automakers trying to suss out how to adapt to the sudden changes to the usual automaker calendar when it comes to production and debut dates.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The year 2020 is turning out to be one for the history books. Even though we're only part of the way through March, a global pandemic is shutting down automotive production and halting economic growth. Plans to launch new automobiles have been shifted and schedules changed. But we're still expecting a big year in pickup trucks, with some pretty amazing stuff in the pipeline.

Assuming production reaches some kind of normalcy by the summer, and strong incentives to get people to buy, here's what you can expect from all the truck automakers this year.

2020 Ford Ranger The Ford Bronco will be built alongside the Ford Ranger in Michigan, eventually.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford

Starting with the largest truck manufacturer in the country, Ford has several trucks in the pipeline. The body-on-frame Ford Bronco was supposed to be revealed at the New York International Auto Show, but that show has been cancelled and an alternative reveal date hasn't been set. The Jeep Wrangler competitor has a removable roof, serious off-road components, and a design reminiscent of the iconic first-generation.

Ford has re-tooled its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan for the Ford Ranger and Bronco and word on the street is that it's ready to go.

There's also a Ford Bronco Sport that is on its way. It too was supposed to show this spring and is slated to be built at the same plant as the 2020 Ford Escape in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 2021 Ford F-150 will also debut this year and should be a complete redesign since the last mid-cycle update was in 2018. Spy shots show a new infotainment screen and instrument cluster. Don't expect dramatic changes in appearance, but expect new powertrains including a hybrid version and a full-on battery electric F-150. At this time, we'd expect to see this truck at the North American International Auto Show in June, or around that time, assuming things start to return to normal.

2022 GMC Hummer EV The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is slated to be revealed in May, but those plans may change.Photo courtesy of GMC

There is also a chance to see Ford's upcoming sub-Ranger pickup. This unibody truck will be smaller than the Ranger, likely be front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, and provide buyers an alternative to a small SUV if they really need the cargo bed. Other than some spy shots and speculation, much isn't known about the truck. If we see it this year, expect it to be towards the end of the year.

General Motors

General Motors recently updated all of their pickup trucks, including mild refreshes of both the Colorado and Canyon, so don't expect a lot happening there. Except, of course, for the revived Hummer pickup truck with a GMC badge. The fully-electric truck will debut this spring – slated for May 20th, but who knows at this point – and should do a zero-to-sixty run in about three seconds.

FCA

Ram Trucks also recently updated their entire lineup, so don't expect anything major from them for the rest of the year. But that doesn't mean that they won't roll out special editions and trims, like the Laramie Southwest version, to help drive sales.

We aren't expecting big things to happen with Jeep's pickup truck this year, since last year was the official launch of the Gladiator. A Mojave edition is hitting dealerships now, and new special editions are always in the works for the Jeep brand.

We do expect, likely this year, for Jeep to drove the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine into the Gladiator like they just did for the Wrangler. With that available engine, the Gladiator should return a respectable fuel economy number.

The new engine won't change the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the truck, meaning that the maximum towing Gladiator might still remain the gas engine.

Jeep Gladiator Mojave The debut of the Jeep Gladiator in December means that it's already headed to dealership lots.Photo courtesy of Jeep

Nissan

Nissan just finished launching their updated Titan and Titan XD trucks and is preparing to show us a significantly updated 2021 Frontier later this year. The new truck will be powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 and a 9-speed automatic transmission. Interestingly, that engine and transmission is in the non-updated 2020 Nissan Frontier.

Toyota

Over at Toyota, we should be due for an updated and refreshed Tundra pickup. While it has received small model year changes, there hasn't been an updated engine or transmission in quite some time. Toyota has said that by 2025 every vehicle in their lineup will have some sort of electrification as an option, so an updated truck with a hybrid powertrain has to be coming. Will it be this year? Depends on how far they are along with engineering that setup.

In the meantime, the Tundra, 4Runner, and Tacoma Trail, which debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February, are the closest thing to "new "in the Toyota trucks lineup.

2020 Toyota Trail The Toyota Trail badged trucks are the newest addition to the Toyota lineup.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Hyundai

In any other year, talking about a pickup truck from Hyundai seems like crazy talk, but 2020 is different. We're expecting the production-version of the Santa Cruz concept to appear. Hyundai has confirmed that this truck (they're calling it a utility vehicle) will be built at their HMMA facility in Alabama.

We expect the truck to have a lifestyle focus appealing to people who like to get out and do things, like surf or ski or camp, and not focus on towing or payload numbers. Hyundai is aware that they can't beat the Big 3 at the truck game, but the Santa Cruz isn't designed to take sales from them.

Except it to have Hyundai's latest safety technology and phone-as-a-key technology. The real question is; will it have Smaht Pahk?

2020 Honda Ridgeline The Honda Ridgeline has gotten some new components for 2020 but it's not quite a refresh.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Honda

The often overlooked Ridgeline has gotten an equipment and features upgrade for the 2020 model year including a new nine-speed automatic transmission and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has been on sale since December. We're coming up on the timeframe for a mid-cycle fascia upgrade for the model but don't expect to see it until later this year, if that happens in 2020.

The beginning of the year looked bright for the car industry for another year, but the spread of the novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc on automotive production and automaker plans for new models. That really is the great unknown now with when we will see a new truck from a manufacturer.

Trucks like the F-150 and the Hummer are likely too far along to postpone. The Bronco is basically ready to go. Everything else could potentially be pushed back. It just depends on how serious this downturn is, how freely people can access money to buy, and whether the consumer confidence is there to buy.

We will see.

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Electric vehicle concepts

Nissan shows off new concepts and plans for future EVs

Nissan showed off a group of funky concept vehicles at the announcement.

Nissan

Nissan is approaching the release of Ariya, its brand-new EV, but there are plans for much more in the automaker’s near future. Today, the Japanese company announced Nissan Ambition 2030, its plan to develop electrified vehicles and become a more sustainable company. Beyond new vehicles, the roadmap includes investments in battery recycling and charging infrastructure, new battery tech, and more widespread safety technologies.

Nissan Ambition 2030 The automaker plans for 50 percent electrification by 2030.Nissan

Nissan’s plans include 23 new electrified models by 2030. The target covers 15 new EVs and a target of 50 percent electrification. The automaker says it plans to launch a proprietary solid-state battery by 2028, and notes that it will develop a pilot production facility in Yokohama, Japan by 2024. Solid state technologies are not yet commercially viable but will offer faster charging times and better energy densities than lithium ion battery packs.

Nissan Surf-Out Concept Surf-Out is a concept truck with super funky styling.Nissan

While the focus was on the news of its electrification plans, Nissan’s concept vehicles stole the show. The Surf-Out concept truck features a long, low cargo surface and unique all-terrain tires. Typical of concept cars, the Surf-Out’s styling and design are over-the-top. The cabin is surrounded on three sides by glass and open to the bed in the rear. Instead of a grille, there’s a glass panel with an illuminated Nissan logo. It's unlikely Surf-Out or the other concepts shown will make it to production unchanged, but they show that the automaker is looking to explore bold designs with its electrified vehicles.

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New hot hatch

Toyota teases GR Corolla hatchback

The Instagram teaser contains many hints at the new GR Corolla.

Toyota

Toyota isn't always top of mind when it comes to performance cars, but the Japanese giant has a few tricks up its sleeve. There's the Supra, which the automaker partnered with BMW to produce and there's also the not-for-the-U.S. GR Yaris. The hotted-up hatchback features tremendous power and a four-wheel drive system, but buyers here can only watch jealously as our friends in Europe and elsewhere get all the fun. That's about to change for U.S. buyers, however, as Toyota has begun teasing the GR Corolla hatchback, which we will get.

The automaker posted a cryptic image to Instagram a month ago, but it's still making the rounds on the internet today, with users of the GR Corolla Forum still discussing the post today. The teaser, which is of the Corolla's interior, features hints as to what we might see when the car debuts. The navigation screen shows GR Four road, which points to the car's four-wheel drive system, while a G:16 on the clock in the gauge cluster represents the G16E-GTS engine that the car is expected to get. The GR Yaris also sports that engine, where it produces 268 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.

Toyota GR Corolla GR, or Gazoo Racing, is Toyota's motorsport armToyota Europe

The GR Corolla should break cover next year, but we don't yet know if it will be a 2022 or 2023 model. As far as pricing goes, Toyota may pull out some surprises, but the car will likely be far more expensive than an everyday Corolla. The smaller GR Yaris is priced starting at nearly $40,000 in Europe, so the Corolla's price tag should be around or slightly above that number.

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