General Motors sold 8,147 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups last month.
Is that good or bad? It depends whom you ask.
Jalopnik leans toward bad, I guess, with this headline from Tuesday: "Is The 2015 Chevy Colorado In Danger Of Becoming A Failed Experiment?" The writer, who counts himself a Colorado fan, laments that in January, just its fifth month on the market, the Colorado didn't overtake the segment’s top dog, the Toyota Tacoma, in monthly sales. (It was 11,409 to 5,942.)
Meanwhile, a Fox News report called the Colorado a "hot seller." And then there's the press release put out this week by GM itself, trumpeting brisk sales in the Los Angeles area, ground zero for smaller pickups and a Tacoma stronghold.
It's understandable that people want to be the first to declare GM's midsize pickup gambit hit or a miss. The stakes are high.
Since GM hasn't disclosed a sales estimate, I thought I'd offer one as a bogey for a successful launch: 120,000 in combined Colorado and Canyon sales this year.
That would breeze past the 82,000 average estimate provided to Automotive News by three research firms. IHS Automotive, AutoPacific Inc. and LMC Automotive gave those forecasts around the time of the September launch, before the Colorado was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year, and before the bottom fell out of gasoline prices.
Also at the launch, Chevy’s marketers said they planned a digital-heavy launch with light national TV play. But those Colorado commercials set to AC/DC’s “Back in Black” sure seem like a national campaign to me. The truck was the star of Chevy’s surprise pre-Super Bowl commercial and received another wave of free publicity when Tom Brady, the game's MVP, re-gifted his Colorado this week to teammate Malcolm Butler.
I'm told GM is planning production somewhere in the range of 130,000 pickups this year at its Wentzville, Mo., plant.
If my back-of-the-envelope target is reasonable, then January sales of the two trucks bode well. A 12-month run rate alone puts the total near 100,000, and January is a slow month. Plus, the trucks are still in launch mode. Many dealers say they can hardly get any. GM says it's got a scant 30-day supply.
But even clearing that bar, or falling short of it, won't tell the whole story. You'll need to look at Silverado and Sierra sales for signs of cannibalization. And the pickups need to do well in California, where Chevy desperately needs better brand consideration. Conquest and average-price data must be crunched.
But for now, 120,000 sales is as good a measuring stick as any for what will be one of the most closely watched story lines in the industry this year.