DETROIT -- Chevrolet dealer Mike Maheras can't wait for a dozen Colorado midsize pickups to arrive at his two stores next month, although he's disappointed he couldn't get more.
"I'd have taken as many as they could give me," says Maheras, dealer principal at Phillips Chevrolet of Lansing, Ill., and general manager at the group's Frankfort store south of Chicago. "This is a market that we've been missing since the Colorado went away" in 2012.
Maheras' order is one among a surge of requests from dealers for the redesigned 2015 Colorado and its sibling, the GMC Canyon, which return to showrooms in October after a two-year absence. GM says dealers ordered 28,000 Colorados and another 14,000 Canyons during the first 30 days after it began taking orders, more than five times its forecast.
"The dealers' enthusiasm for the Colorado is off the charts," Chevrolet U.S. chief Brian Sweeney told Automotive News last week.
Dealers commonly go big on initial orders of newly launched models, when eager buyers are lined up.
Still, GM views the reception as a sign that dealers believe in the market for smaller pickups, even as many skeptics question the company's strategy.
The launch of the Colorado and Canyon is among the most closely watched in years for GM, and may serve as a bellwether of consumers' pickup preferences. GM is counting on the smaller trucks to give Chevy and GMC lineups that no rival can match: a midsize pickup, plus full-size offerings in the both light- and heavy-duty segments.
Forecasts for combined sales of the Colorado and Canyon next year, by IHS Automotive, AutoPacific and LMC Automotive, range from 73,000 to 91,400 trucks. By comparison, GM sold 664,803 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras last year.
GM last week announced EPA fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined for models with the 3.6 liter V-6 engine, which should be the volume model. That should easily lead the segment, ahead of the 17 city/21 highway/19 combined rating of the Toyota Tacoma's V-6.
Still, recent fuel economy improvements in full-size pickups have blurred the line between GM's new midsize trucks and bigger ones.
For example, a two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 full-size with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine uses a stop-start system, eight-speed transmission and other technology to wring out an EPA rating of 17 mpg city/25 highway/20 combined, just shy of the Colorado/Canyon rating.
Maheras is happy that his salespeople will be able to boast segment-leading fuel economy. He's not worried about comparisons to full-size trucks. "There are plenty of other factors the midsize buyer looks at," he says. "They'll like the smaller package and the design."