GM created quite a stir in the midsize truck market by recently announcing that it will sell a new Chevrolet Colorado in the U.S., recently designed and built in Thailand.
Oddly, no announcements have been made about a GMC sibling or exactly where in the U.S. the new truck will be built. Good guesses have been made about the GM plant in Wentzville, Mo., where the current GMC Savana and Chevy Express are being built, but no official statements have been made. With that said, some sources report there is a scheduled $380 million investment and retooling planned for the Missouri plant, according to the recent United Auto Workers contract agreements.
The announcement of an all-new vehicle destined for a segment that’s been shrinking for more than a decade has some other Detroit manufacturers scratching their heads. When asked whether Ford is considering a return to the segment with a new Ranger, Doug Scott, Ford’s chief truck marketing guru, said, “We have been and will likely keep looking at that segment, assessing whether it’s time to make that investment, but there are a lot of questions that have to get answered first.”
Scott went on to describe a little history. “Several years ago, we all the saw the economy doing things we didn’t like, and resources shrank. With the limited resources, we had to decide where to invest — keep pushing to support F-150 and Super Duty where the sales still were, or invest in the midsize market, hoping it would come back,” he said.
Clearly, Ford’s investment in revamping the entire powertrain lineup is helping to keep the company in the full-size pickup game, but Scott talked about other issues that still need to be settled to seriously consider the midsize-truck segment.
“The three key factors at play to make a truck in that segment attractive,” Scott says, “seem to be cost (the truck would need to be inexpensive to make and sell), fuel economy (there needs to be solid separation from the full-size choice), and it needs to have some ‘cool’ factor.”
Many PUTC readers will remember when this segment was selling almost 2 million vehicles per year, there were relatively few good-quality car choices that could meet these three criteria. Today, however, there are many more choices on the car side — VW Beetle, Chevy Spark, Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit and Nissan Juke among them — with even more choices coming. Additionally, any pickups not made in the U.S. will get penalized with a "chicken tax" so simply importing a new Ranger from any of the three (Thailand, Argentina or South Africa) manufacturing facilities will not solve any problems.
(Editor's note: We've been told by some trade experts that there may be a special trade exemption with South Africa that could make it possible to import the new global Ranger without tax penalties, but the rules and regulations, as you might expect, are ridiculously complex and could create unneeded tensions if pursued.)
“Now that doesn’t mean there might not be an engine technology or manufacturing process that might not come along and change the game and reignite this segment, but for now we haven’t made any decisions,” Scott said.