Honda is planning a mid-size pickup for the US market but is not targeting the full-size sector into which Nissan weighed this week, The Detroit News said.

Parts suppliers and others familiar with the plans told the Detroit News that Honda is developing a mid-sized truck that will blend the attributes of a pickup and an SUV. It will likely arrive in showrooms in 2005, built on the same basic vehicle architecture that underpins the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX mid-size SUVs.

The Detroit News said Honda is coming late to the truck party, but has proven with the Odyssey minivan and the Pilot mid-size SUV that it’s more than capable of successfully branching out into new niches. The new pickup is expected to be built at Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ontario, or its Lincoln, Alabama, factory.

The Detroit News said that Honda CEO Hiroyuki Yoshino, in an interview last August, hinted at the car maker’s plans, saying that if Honda decided to build a pickup, it would be unconventional.
The new truck will be far from conventional, future product experts who have closely tracked its development told the Detroit News.

Michael Robinet, a product analyst with CSM Worldwide in Northville, told the newspaper it will be built on a car-like one-piece frame, known as unibody construction, as opposed to the typical body-on-frame truck design.

Ford and GM’s Australian operations build unibody pickups based on their popular saloon and estate car Falcon and Commodore lines.

The Detroit News said the unibody design limits towing and hauling capacity – the Australian ‘utes’ typically tote 500kg – but the newspaper said the design should allow for exceptional ride and handling characteristics.

“A unibody truck is the holy grail of the light truck market,” Robinet told the Detroit News.

The newspaper said that, unlike Nissan’s new V8-powered Titan, the Honda pickup won’t compete with full-size American trucks such as the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. It likely will be powered by a V-6 engine, the Detroit News said, adding that Honda does not produce an eight-cylinder engine.

“It will be a little more than a mulch hauler,” Robinet told the Detroit News. “They are not going to sell a lot of these in Kansas. This is mostly an urban vehicle.”

The Detroit News said, most importantly, a pickup will be Honda’s ticket to a vast segment of young male buyers who could some day put other Hondas in their driveways.

A Honda spokesman told the Detroit News the company has no plans to build a full-size truck but the newspaper noted that it has not ruled out the possibility, though the costs would be substantial because it would have to develop a high-torque V8 engine, a heavy-duty transmission and other truck components.