Editor's note: This report has been corrected to say that the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tacoma are the competing vehicles most commonly traded in for a Chevrolet Colorado. The most frequent trade-ins overall are the Chevy Silverado, Colorado and Equinox, according to J.D. Power.
LOS ANGELES -- Chevrolet says the two competing vehicles most commonly traded in for one of its Colorado pickups are the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tacoma.
So now it's taking on those rivals even more directly with a high-performance, off-road version of the Colorado, the ZR2. The ZR2, unveiled last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, can fit through tight spaces more easily than the broader F-150 Raptor, Chevy said, and has more technology to conquer rugged terrain than the Tacoma TRD Off-Road.
It's General Motors' latest bid to build on its momentum in the midsize pickup segment with Toyota struggling to keep pace with surging demand and Ford still absent from the market while it prepares to relaunch the Ranger in 2018.
Chevy has been working on the ZR2 since the Colorado reached U.S. dealers in 2014, showing its confidence in the segment's potential despite skeptics who thought reviving the Colorado to sell alongside GM's lucrative full-size trucks was risky. It's on pace to sell more than 100,000 Colorados in the U.S. this year for the first time since 2005, with sales of the nameplate up 29 percent through October.
"The midsize segment was dead, you said. It would cannibalize the Silverado, you said," Alan Batey, GM's president of North America, told journalists invited to a Los Angeles warehouse last week, where the automaker assembled an obstacle course to show off the ZR2's capabilities to reporters, dealers and customers. "I'm pleased to announce that you were wrong."
Batey said GM has increased its retail market share in both the midsize and full-size segments this year. More than half of buyers are conquest customers, a considerable feat in the pickup market, where buyers tend to be fiercely loyal to one brand.
Many dealers say they want even more Colorados than they've been able to get, and they're glad to see Chevy expanding the line with a brawny off-road variant.
"I was a doubter," said Carroll Smith, president of Monument Chevrolet in Pasadena, Texas. "It's not that much cheaper than a Silverado, and I thought it would be tough to sell. I've been amazed how we've done with it."
By using the Colorado instead of the Silverado as the basis for its most rugged vehicle, Chevy can improve its chances of pulling price-sensitive customers away from Ford's Raptor. The Raptor starts at $49,520, and while Chevy did not divulge pricing for the ZR2, the model is likely to sell for around $40,000 for a crew-cab version when it arrives next year.
Chevy also emphasized other advantages that the ZR2 has over the Ford truck, including that it's almost a foot narrower than the Raptor. Chevy's demonstration course for the unveiling last week included pylons spaced just far enough apart for a ZR2 to nimbly snake through but too close together for an F-150.
"It's amazing what a difference a foot of width makes off road," Mark Dickens, Chevy's executive director of performance variants, performance parts and motorsports engineering, said in a statement. "The smaller size of the Colorado is a huge enabler for taking the ZR2 more places, and getting it through tighter spots than you could access with a full-size truck."