DETROIT – General Motors sees an appetite in North America for a midsize pickup truck addressing both the personal use and commercial markets, blaming a recent lack of demand in the segment on lackluster product.
“We honestly believe there are a lot of people looking for a midsize truck,” Alan Batey, senior vice president-global Chevrolet at GM, tells WardsAuto during a sneak peek of the redesigned ’15 Chevy Colorado.
“There wasn’t a lot of choice” in the segment in recent years, he adds, which led to a decline in popularity for the products. Ford and Chrysler recently exited the midsize truck market, leaving the segment to the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Honda will put its entry on a 2-year hiatus in September 2014, or perhaps sooner.
GM sold a previous-generation Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon as recently as last year, before it ceased output in August 2012 and unloaded the Shreveport, LA, assembly plant where they were built to Elio Motors. The new Colorado and Canyon coming to market late next year will be built at GM’s Wentzville, MO, assembly plant.
Automakers sold 278,265 midsize pickups last year for 1.9% of industry sales, according to WardsAuto data. That’s a far cry from the 1.5 million units the segment sold at its peak in 1986.
GM’s new midsize pickups will be significantly different than their predecessors, offering greater fuel economy, capability, accessory choices and more attractive styling.
“We think we will bring a lot of interest to the segment,” Batey says. “We’ll grow that segment.”
However, the segment also shrank because pricing between midsize and fullsize pickups narrowed. Buyers could essentially get a bigger truck for the cost of a smaller one.
Batey says the Colorado “will fit on a price ladder that is logical,” but also target a different customer than the fullsize pickup buyer.
“Some people don’t want or need a fullsize pickup. This truck will be very different,” he says, pointing a wide range of accessories GM plans to offer through its dealers to make the Colorado a “lifestyle” vehicle.
The Colorado also should prop up GM sales on the coasts, too, where the automaker has historically lower market share, he says.
The Colorado, which GM will unveil to the public at next week’s Los Angeles auto show, is based off a midsize truck of the same name that the automaker sells in Thailand and South America. But “huge changes” were made to the architecture to accommodate North American tastes, Batey says.
It also should appeal to commercial customers. Much like the personal use buyer, commercial customers do not always need the capability of a fullsize pickup but need the same level of utility.
“We’re not pigeon-holed into a certain (sales) penetration because we’ve got a truck that has a certain specification,” Batey says, calling the Colorado a “truly, truly capable pickup.”
The addition of the Colorado and Canyon will give GM three sizes of pickups in North America, whereas Ford and Chrysler appear satisfied with two.
“We think a 3-truck approach is the way to go.”