General Motors banking on the Colorado to be player in mid-sized trucks

Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:01am EST
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By Ben Klayman

LOS ANGELES Nov 20 (Reuters) - General Motors Co is banking on American consumers' desire for something different from cars and crossover utility vehicles to drive demand for its Chevrolet Colorado when the mid-sized pickup trucks re-enter the U.S. market next autumn.

As part of the No. 1 U.S. automaker's so-called "three-truck strategy" that includes the full-size and heavy-duty Chevy Silverado pickups, the 2015 Colorado and its GMC sibling Canyon are meant to appeal to lifestyle buyers much like Subaru has done with its vehicles, offering space, utility and a refined interior.

GM believes the Colorado redux, which will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday, will be far more successful than its last appearance when U.S. sales peaked in 2005 above 128,000. However, declining popularity and the company's need to save money during its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization forced it to exit the U.S. market last year.

GM, which never stopped selling the Colorado overseas, envisions a profitable return in a segment that was abandoned by its U.S. rivals, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group .

"We honestly believe from all the research that we've done that there's a lot of people looking for mid-size" trucks, Alan Batey, GM's global Chevy chief told reporters ahead of the relaunch. "What happened in the segment was there wasn't a lot of choice."

Research firm IHS Automotive, however, does not see sales as strong as GM does, predicting 100,000 annually in the U.S. market from the Colorado and Canyon combined.

"The gap in pricing between Silverado and Colorado will be key," IHS senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. "If price gets too close or fuel economy is not better by at least five to six miles per gallon on the highway, that will hurt the Colorado.

"The real question is how many people are really sitting in small crossovers wishing they had trucks," she added. "We don't know the answer, but GM is betting on that."   Continued...