Somewhere there must be a script that defines Honda's strategy for entering a market segment. I'm pretty certain about two things: haste is absent from this strategy; innovation is not. Honda has shown time and again that they have no interest in entering a new (to them) market segment until they are good and ready with a product that they feel has a 110% chance of success. In the past decade, we've seen this strategy being played out in the minivan and SUV segments, and now it is unfolding before our eyes in the ginormous (thanks, Buddy) pickup truck segment.
And yes, as I type this, I'm sitting here scratching my head in a bit of amazement that I'm writing my first impressions of a Honda pickup truck. Note the emphasis. I'm amazed that Honda has finally entered a segment that they resisted for so long; a segment that was once thought to be utterly impervious to foreign penetration. Toyota and Nissan have been building trucks (and some quite good ones) and pounding the rock for many, many years. They still have yet to make a real dent on the stranglehold that is held by Ford and Chevy (and to a lesser extent, even Dodge). Perhaps the one thing the Japanese trucks have been missing all these years has been innovation.
This is where Honda typically likes to step in. I'm sure it's actually covered in their playbook: sit around and wait for everybody else to play their hands, watch, and learn. (This part can last a few years or a few decades.) Then once they see what flies and what doesn't, they swoop in with their own interpretation.
So what exactly is the formula for success that was concocted in the American Honda R&D labs? Basically it's a half-ton pickup truck with the exterior dimensions of a compact pickup truck and interior dimensions that rival full-sized pickup trucks. Oh, and with a fully boxed ladder frame unibody construction and four wheel double wishbone suspension, it's designed to drive like no pickup truck ever has before it.
After several years of speculation, handwringing, and soul searching, the Ridgeline is finally finished, and we were able to spend a day and a half of quality time with it. Has Honda done it again?