1982 Chevrolet S-10
While other manufacturers have announced plans to completely abandon the slow-selling midsize pickup segment, General Motors apparently thinks there's still life and new opportunity to be found in small trucks. GM is said to be working on a new compact runabout that's reminiscent of the original Chevrolet S-10, according to our sources.
The current Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins have been steadily losing sales and market share over the past few years. Year to date, the Colorado is down 30.3 percent from a year earlier and the Canyon is off 28.5 percent. Newly retired former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said in February that the future of the two trucks were uncertain and, last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said it was GM's plan to end production at the Shreveport plant where the Colorado and Canyon are produced by 2012.
The two biggest players in the segment today are the best-selling Toyota Tacoma, which still sells more than 100,000 units annually, and the long-in-the-tooth Ford Ranger.
But some have complained that the Tacoma is too big -- it grew to its current size in 2005 -- and expensive. And Ford says it will end production of the Ranger next year because small truck buyers can make do with a small car or fuel-efficient F-150. Small truck buyers have also moved into full-size pickups because the cost of entry-level half-ton trucks is often close to the price tag of midsize pickups.
Those reasons are said to be enough to open the door for GM to potentially offer a modern take on a small truck that's similar in size to the compact pickups of the 1980s, when the segment sold more than 1 million trucks annually.
Through April of this year, only 87,985 compact and midsize trucks have been sold, according to J.D. Power and Associates' Power Information Network sales figures.
The key elements of success for GM's future small truck would be fuel economy that’s greater than its full-size pickups and a window sticker that’s significantly less. It would also be a completely different and smaller platform than the planned next-generation overseas version of the Colorado that will be built in Thailand.
GM isn't the only manufacturer still serious about small trucks. Chrysler has said it hopes to produce a successor to the Dodge Dakota, which ends production in 2011, and Toyota's subsidiary Scion has said it's also considering offering a true compact pickup.
If our sources are correct -- and we're confident they are -- we think this is a brilliant move on GM's part to take advantage of a segment that's only down on its luck because the product choice today is so poor.