Is a front-wheel-drive-based pickup in Chevy’s future?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

The Chevrolet Colorado pickup concept unveiled this week reminds me of a conversation I had this year with a General Motors executive. But there was one surprise with the unveiling.

The mid-sized, all-wheel-drive Colorado was shown before the opening of the Bangkok International Auto Show this week.

GM will assemble the pickup in Thailand for export to Southeast Asia and Europe. Engineering was handled by GM’s subsidiary in Brazil.

GM has not said whether the pickup will be sold in North America, but don’t be surprised if it shows up at a Chevy dealership in two years or so. The current generation Colorado and its sister vehicle, the GMC Canyon, are expected to go out of production in 2012.

During an interview this year at the Detroit auto show, Jamie Hresko, then vice president of GM global powertrain engineering, strongly suggested the automaker was exploring a new mid-sized pickup. He resigned in late February to pursue other opportunities.

To meet proposed higher U.S. fuel economy and lower emissions standards, automakers that sell in the United States eventually will need to develop a leaner range of pickups, Hresko said.

At some point, especially with the likelihood of higher gasoline prices down the road, a smaller, lighter-weight pickup is inevitable.

Hresko stopped short of saying GM was developing such a truck, but the Colorado concept fits his description.

As you look around the industry, Hresko said, “what you have seen is a massive shift to smaller, more efficient [vehicles], so I think it applies to every segment,” including pickups.

An increase in energy costs is “inevitable with the expansions in China and other regions. Logic would say prices will go up” and some pickup buyers will be looking for a more fuel efficient alternative, he said.

“My point is the general population will eventually walk there. I do believe that. I am not sure what the marketers think. To me it is logical,” Hresko said.

There’s one thing that Hresko didn’t say: that GM’s mid-sized pickup would be developed on a front-wheel-drive platform.

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