Why GM might rename its new mid-sized pickups

GM sold 2,210 Chevrolet Colorados in the U.S. during the first quarter compared with 10,056 for the same three months last year. Pictured is the 2013 model. The new model is expected to be unveiled this fall.

Mark Reuss says the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-sized pickups will be so much better than the bland outgoing models, General Motors might come up with new names.

"We're targeting a new generation of buyer with a new truck," the GM North America president told reporters this week.

That's good. Because GM's entire pickup strategy relies greatly on the success of those new mid-sized offerings.

Sticking with a mid-sized pickup is a big bet that diverges from rivals Ford and Chrysler, which have walked away from the segment.

GM's rivals don't seem to expect a revival in the shrunken market for mid-sized pickups. It's shriveled to just 264,197 units last year, from more than a 1 million in 2000, when the Ford Ranger, Chevy S-10 and Dodge Dakota were showroom staples.

Somewhere along the way, the line between full- and mid-sized pickup blurred. Most buyers didn't see the logic in opting for a smaller truck that didn't offer a whole lot better fuel economy -- or a much cheaper sticker price.

But Reuss contends that full-sized trucks can't be all things to all buyers. They are workhorses for people who use their trucks for a living.

The mid-sized trucks will be for people who like the functionality of a truck but don't need big towing capacity and want better gas mileage.

Want the same 25 mpg highway rating on the Ram 1500? You won't be able to get it on either of GM's redesigned full-sized pickups, the Silverado and Sierra, which should hit showrooms in June. But how about the new Colorado or Canyon?

That in a nutshell will be GM's strategy once the redesigned mid-sized pickups land in late 2014.

So how can GM unblur that line between full- and mid-sized?

It must give consumers a clear choice: A mid-sized pickup that offers styling, features and fuel economy that a full-sized pickup can't sniff. A diesel engine, for example, would give those smaller pickups a sizeable mpg edge over its bigger brethern.

Reuss wouldn't comment on prospects for a diesel engine. But he did promise that GM will "attack the West coast with a lifestyle truck that is really beautiful and fun."

When they're unveiled this fall, the new Colorado and Canyon -- or whatever GM decides to call them -- will raise the curtain on one of the most interesting chess matches unfolding in the auto industry.

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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