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New Chevrolet Colorado the company's most important vehicle since bankruptcy

Chevy will reveal the new Colorado compact pickup truck in one week at the LA Auto Show. Will this new Colorado turn around Chevy’s diving pickup sales?


The new Chevrolet Colorado is going to be revealed next week at the LA Auto Show. This new truck cannot come soon enough for Chevy. In the past few months Chevy’s truck sales have dropped off a cliff, while at the same time other manufacturers and even Chevy’s other vehicles, are recording world record volumes. The double digit declines in sales have let stealthy rival Toyota pass GMC in truck sales, and if the slide continues, Chevy will be neck and neck with Toyota in all but heavy duty pickup truck sales.

Chevy quit on the Colorado, just as Ford quit on the Ranger, and Dodge quit on the Dakota, a few years back. First they quit modernizing the small trucks, then after they died on the vine, the companies stopped building and marketing them. The thought at the time was, why sell a smaller, less expensive truck, when we can barely keep up with demand for our larger and more expensive ones? It was thinking like that put both GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and Ford into debt as deep as it had even been. The Toyota Tacoma meanwhile grew a few percent a year, until wouldn’t you know it, it became a vehicle that sells now in the hundreds of thousands per year. Go figure. Higher gas prices, a recession, and other factors all conspired to make small trucks desirable again. Now Toyota has about a decade of new, loyal truck fans thanks to the decision by the big boys to drop out of the affordable, compact truck market. If you think this is an exaggeration, you are wrong, and our recent overview tells the tale quite clearly.

The new Colorado, and the GMC twin, the Canyon, could both be sellers in the 50K to 100K range depending upon how much effort GM puts into the new vehicles. They could even sell a lot more since the Ranger and Dakota are not going to be around to be tempting “American” alternatives. At their peak in 2005 they sold about 160,000 per year combined. The Colorado could be an excellent fuel-saving alternative for those who want the functionality and coolness of a truck, but also have a limited budget for both the vehicle and the fuel. GM could put class-leading engines and content in the vehicles, or they can mail it in as they have on the Malibu, which leads in pretty much not a single category in its class. We will soon know.

GM now has viable four-cylinder turbo, V6, and even twin turbo V6 options that could make the Colorado and Canyon trucks extremely interesting to a new breed of compact truck buyers. The styling will be edgy to attract new younger buyers, and GM could make sporty versions of the trucks with 2WD and a lowered suspension. These would be more attention getters than plywood getters, but they would build a buzz around the new trucks. The new look shown above has a little bit of a resemblance to (listen don’t break your keyboard when you read this, OK?) the Honda Ridgeline. Gasp!

The new Colorado will be built in the Wentzville, MO plant. For those keeping track, that is in the United States. GM does not build all the trucks it sells in the US. So the new trucks can use the made in America theme if that helps. Although with the only rival being Toyota, which makes all of its trucks in Texas (also in the US), that may not be the most inspiring motivation for buyers.

Truck sales at GM help to fund green cars that lose money like the Chevy Volt, the Spark EV, and other government mandated transportation excuses. The new smaller Colorado and Canyon might actually help the environment more than these insanely low volume, incredibly expensive to build vehicles. The sheer volume potential for small trucks in the US, many of which will be bought instead of a used gas-guzzling full size truck, or stripped version of a new gas-guzzling pickup, could actually reduce the use of gasoline. Image that. Make money, help reduce the amount of fuel used, and take some market share back from Toyota. Sounds like a plan GM should have embraced about ten years ago.


Parks McCants    November 14, 2013 - 12:50AM

I like it.. The bottom line is price. Heavy truck sales are down because a fully loaded Silverado with a V/8 or the much touted T.D. is north of $60 K on the west coast. Consumers are strapped. And unless your writing the beast down as a business expense, it makes more financial sense for the average weekend warrior to take it down a notch. And then there's the appealing design aspect of the Ford F150 and the Dodge Ram truck line. Perhaps this will pull Chevy out of the ditch.. We'll see. Thanks for the extremely well written review.

John Goreham    November 14, 2013 - 9:57AM

Trucks offer a lot of plusses. Rear drive or AWD, power, roominess, simplicity, utility, and they have special "exemption" from the MGP requirements of cars. If the benchmark is that they always have to be able to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood lying flat in the bed the buying public will miss out on a lot of great vehicle designs.

Dave - Phoenix (not verified)    November 14, 2013 - 11:49AM

I agree this is an important vehicle for GM.

The question is whether the Colorado will be small enough and fuel efficient enough. I do not think a mid-sized, 4-door pickup that can barely exceed 20 MPG will have much impact.

The Colorado needs to have "real" fuel efficiency. If that means it can't tow a 50 ft yacht up a cliff, so be it. Fuel efficiency is more important than towing capacity for this vehicle. People can always get a Silverado if ludicrous towing capacity is required.

John Goreham    November 14, 2013 - 1:07PM

In reply to by Dave - Phoenix (not verified)

I think you've nailed it. There should be some real separation between the two lines of trucks. TN' Patrick Rall will do a very detailed look when the information is ready, but moving the trucks to a "Unit-body" or unibody style of construction, and also embracing things like stop-start technology and energy recapturing like on the BMW product line (alternator only runs when it is logical) would be a cool step. Hopefully we will see this stuff, but like you I am very cautiously pessimistic.

Aaron Turpen    November 15, 2013 - 12:07AM

In reply to by John Goreham

I would like to see what Ram and Chevy have done with their 1500-class trucks done to smaller trucks. The Ram 1500 V6 is a great platform and, in my opinion, just needs to be smaller. At 25 mpg as it is, I can easily envision that truck getting 30 or better if downsized. All without costly drivetrain improvements or hybridization.