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Auto Show: Are Small Pickup Trucks The Next Big Thing?

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GMC Canyon Pickup (GM Photo)

GMC Canyon Pickup (GM Photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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DETROIT (WWJ) – As other companies drop out of the compact pickup market, GM sees it as a big opportunity.

“We view this, because of the current state of the mid-size pickup market, as a true conquest machine,” says GMC Vice President Tony DiSalle.

About six weeks after revealing a new Chevrolet Colorado compact pickup at the LA Show, GM is showing off its sister vehicle, the GMC Canyon here in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. This is aimed at people who are looking to haul and tow, with the Chevy aimed at more of a “lifestyle” crowd.

LINK–GMC Canyon Press Release

Ford and Chrysler have already pulled out of the compact pickup market. Ford, which is introducing a new full-size F-150 at the Detroit show discontinued the Ranger several years ago. While a new Ranger is sold in many other markets, Ford executives have continually said they have no plans to bring that model to the U.S.

Chrysler had wanted to build a “lifestyle” pickup of its own, but found the project too expensive. So, it was discontinued.

As full size pickup sales have grown, the compact pickup market has dwindled, from a peak of 1.4 million in 1985 to around 250,000 today.

DiSalle feels there’s still interest in smaller pickups. But, he says buyers have been pushed to other vehicles because, when they look at the compact pickup market, they find some of their needs and wants lacking.

“Things like refinement,” he said. “Things like materials, comfort, roominess, fuel economy. All of those elements have basically been dissatisfiers for years amongst consumers in mid-size pickups. We see that as a real opportunity.”

GM is not concerned about the Colorado and Canyon names being a turn off. DiSalle says the new vehicles are nothing like the ones that have been off the market for several years now.

As for stealing sales from larger GM pickups, Disalle says he would rather see buyers who want something smaller have a General Motors choice, rather than only being able to choose between the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, which are the only compact pickups on the market today.

“There are a couple ways to look at it. One is, ‘OK, there’s not a lot of business there.’ The other is, ‘This could be a huge opportunity.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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