Chevy reveals next Colorado pickup in Thailand

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Chevrolet used the Bangkok International Motor Show to launch "the new generation Chevrolet Colorado show truck," a model that bowtie loyalists have been waiting to be updated for a number of years. The midsize pickup, along with its counterpart from GMC, the Canyon, replaced the S10 and Sonoma compact models respectively in 2004, and seven unchanged years is a long run for any vehicle in today's highly competitive market.

So why Bangkok? Thailand is the hottest compact/mid-size pickup truck market in the world, not to mention that archrival Ford introduced its all-new midsize Ranger there exactly a year ago.

"Thailand is the world's-largest market for midsize pickups, so this was the perfect location in which to unveil our new Colorado," said Susan Docherty, vice president, GMIO Sales, Marketing and Aftersales. "Trucks have been part of Chevrolet's core for nearly all of its 100-year history. The Colorado reinforces that heritage with expressive design, refinement and uncompromising capability."

The new Colorado show truck is a unique design, although its sporty yet rugged looks pay tribute to Chevy's popular Avalanche. Chevy coated the exterior in what it calls Pepperdust Metallic, while polished aluminum trim highlights the front and rear fascias, integrated side steps, and black-masked projector-style headlamps featuring LEDs. The Colorado show truck's taillights are full-width LEDs.

"Around the globe, pickup trucks are associated with strength, capability and function – and that's exactly what the Colorado show truck embodies," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of Global Design. "Its broad-shouldered proportions are derived from nearly a century of Chevrolet truck heritage."

So, how close is this "show truck" to production? According to Martin Apfel, President GM Thailand, "All the things are in place and actually we're doing the fine tuning right now, so put one and one together."

Brad Merkel, GM's global vehicle line executive, went a little further in saying, "Although this is a show vehicle, the basic proportions and form convey the vision for the next-generation Colorado that we will bring to market."

To those who made it possible for GM to enjoy nearly 100 years of pickup truck profitability, a more important question might be whether or not this new Colorado will be sold in North America. While the model hasn't yet been ruled out of our market, GM temporarily shuttered its Shreveport, LA assembly plant, where the current Colorado/Canyon twins are built, due to a shortage of electronic parts from Japan, but the facility was already scheduled to be shut down indefinitely in July of next year at which point the Colorado and Canyon will not be sold in North America any longer due to slow sales.

The compact truck market used to be extremely strong in North America, with models such as the Colorado and Canyon, plus the Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, and pickups from Mazda, Nissan and Toyota filling the segment. Now, despite a newcomer from Honda and Mitsubishi's stillborn Raider, Toyota dominates the class with its Tacoma.

The Tacoma followed the Dakota into midsize pickup territory, and the Colorado and Canyon followed suit too, as did Nissan's Frontier, and that move up in size not only marked the immediate death of the compact pickup, but signified the overall death of entry-level domestic pickups as well. Stiff competition amongst domestic full-size pickup truck makers, Dodge (now Ram), Ford and GM, has caused prices to drop into midsize territory, resulting in most North American buyers opting for larger half-ton models. Ford believes that the Ranger it introduced in Thailand last year would be sized too close to its bread-and-butter F-150, and likely GM is thinking the same way about its upcoming Colorado.

The choice to opt out of North America, while stinging to domestic compact pickup fans, opens the doors to more flexible, smaller competitors such as Mahindra; an Indian automaker with plans to offer diesel-powered midsize trucks in the U.S. as soon as it gets clearance. Marginal mainstream players like Mitsubishi might want to take another stab at the market too, although this time not by building a rebadged Dodge Dakota, but rather a true compact such as its ultra-efficient turbo-diesel powered Triton.

With fuel prices expected to rise dramatically in coming years, it's likely that smaller compact trucks will prove popular enough for niche players to profit. Just the same, basing a future product lineup on commodity speculation might not be the soundest business practice, but one thing appears certain. GM and Ford will likely not be in our compact truck market to take advantage.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, Chevrolet, 2012, Colorado, Midsize,

Geographic location: Colorado, Thailand

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