Why a big, light pickup didn't make sense to GM

The mid-sized Colorado will provide “90 percent of the size and 120 percent of the efficiency because of the powertrains," says GM's Mark Reuss.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Interested in owning a lighter, less capable light-duty full-sized pickup?

I didn't think so.

But General Motors seriously considered developing such a truck in an effort to boost the fuel economy of its pickups.

"We have studied this extensively," Mark Reuss, GM's president of North America, said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show last week. The key was "light-weighting," using lighter materials.

It seemed like a workable idea: Simply engineer some light-duty, full-sized pickup models using materials that reduce weight. The idea was discussed years ago as GM began development of its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups. The redesigned pickups will be available in dealer showrooms next year.

But not the lighter-weight, less capable models. That idea was dropped. Why? Reuss cites a few reasons:

  • Higher materials cost and disappointing mpg: Reuss said that "if you look at profit on this, if you look at what it takes to actually do this, what it does to the cost of materials, and what it does to the real fuel economy of that vehicle," the effort would fall way short of GM's targets. He did not elaborate.
  • Less capability: "What you risk when you light-weight trucks are duty-cycle issues," said Reuss. Capability can't be reduced because "there are people who use that to make a living."

Of course, what he failed to say is GM's pickups would be less competitive and that Ford and Ram likely would pick up new business.

Reuss said that from a dollars and cents standpoint, and to reach GM's fuel economy targets, it made more sense to develop a mid-sized pickup -- the redesigned Chevrolet Colorado.

That plan gives buyers two pickup choices: full-sized and mid-sized. Sales are expected to begin sometime next year. The pickup also will be sold outside of North America.

That's not to say GM's full-sized pickups won't have better fuel economy. They will, Reuss said. But the mid-sized pickup will have better fuel economy -- possibly much better -- than its big brother.

Said Reuss: The mid-sized Colorado will provide "90 percent of the size and 120 percent of the efficiency because of the powertrains."

Let's see where GM goes with this idea.

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