To its credit, Honda retained its category-exclusive under-bed storage trunk in the all-new 2017 Ridgeline. Not only does it provide a place to hide things you don't want exposed, you also can use it as a giant cooler during tailgate parties.
This clever idea was borrowed from the Odyssey minivan, which has the same storage bin in the rear cargo area. (The Odyssey uses the space to store the fold-and-flip third-row seats.) Since the minivan and the midsize pickup have a similar chassis design, Honda engineers took advantage of the space to create something unique for pickup buyers.
Additionally, according to Automotive News, Honda engineers altered the plastic mixture from which the bed is made to make scratches less visible. Rather than white scratches, the new bed reportedly shows black scratches. That chemical compound change along with a new in-bed speaker system (which uses embedded "exciters" rather than easily damaged speakers) will likely give the new pickup just enough distinction to keep it a strong choice for some midsize pickup buyers. But will it be enough to be profitable for Honda?
The short answer is yes. While the Ridgeline basically has been ignored for the last five years, the segment has attracted a great deal of attention due to the arrival and success of new Chevrolet, GMC and Toyota midsize pickups. With the midsize segment getting plenty of scrutiny, there's likely to be a good amount of curiosity about the Ridgeline if not full-blown cross-shopping.
Even if Honda sells only a few thousand more Ridgelines per year than its recent average of 13,000 trucks, an increase to 25,000 overall units would almost double the sales for the sport-utility pickup. More likely, as more Honda loyalists and "anti-truck" buyers check out this new Ridgeline — which drives like a car, is easy to enter and exit, and delivers a smooth ride — Honda could rack up more sales as a second vehicle for families.
The new Ridgeline is likely to be profitable for Honda because much of its production and design is based on other popular Honda vehicles — the Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs, and the Odyssey. Even if the Ridgeline never comes close to its peak sale numbers of 50,000 units per year (2006), its profit margins here must be spectacular. Maybe that's why Honda doesn't care about the "it's not a pickup" criticism the truck generates among pickup enthusiasts. This is as close to an easy business decision as it gets. And we still get another choice in the midsize pickup segment that can tow and carry a reasonable amount of weight.
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears