By Andrius Mikonis
GM leveraged global engineering resources to revitalize its midsize pickup trucks under guidance from Anita Burke, chief vehicle engineer for midsize trucks. Burke joined GM in 1991 after working for other U.S. full-size truck manufacturers. She was an engineering group manager in Mexico and directed after-sales engineering for GM in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Burke recently returned to her native Chicago for a walk around of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.
Engineering for the Midsize Customer
"One thing with midsize truck customers is they utilize their vehicles for everyday commuting as well as all their lifestyle activities because they want the versatility of a pickup. They don't need the full capability of a full-size. So every decision we made into this was first and foremost based on fuel economy. … From the integrated front-end design to its air dam to its raked windshield, we took that into account."
Why the Colorado and GMC's Canyon Won't Steal Full-Size Sales
"What we're really covering is all the customer needs when you look at our strategy. We're the only manufacturer that's going to offer a truck that meets every single one of our customers' versatile needs. Not everyone needs the size or the full capability of a heavy-duty or a light-duty truck. They're looking for a midsize truck that's smaller, maneuverable, easy parking and gets exceptional fuel economy."
Anticipating Growth for the Midsize Segment
"This segment has got a huge opportunity for growth when you look at it; that it's been a segment that has been neglected for many, many years; that there really hasn't been something that the customer could choose from. So we've reinvented the midsize segment with delivering this truck, with both the Canyon and the Colorado, that's going to give the customer that choice. … I don't think its chartable or predictable, but when you look at the size of the segment, it's been around 225,000 units last year, and again, that was with limited choice. Their only option was to go with something that was admittedly dated … they turned to crossovers and passenger cars because of the choice that was there. Or they went to a full-size truck, which was more truck than they needed."
The Diesel Option
"At launch, [for the] '15 model year we're going to have two gas engines. … A year later we bring in the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel. What that's going to deliver obviously is one step up with respect to performance and capability. So it's going to be that customer that's looking, again, for this size truck but wants that additional performance and capability. … The diesel engine is currently the same engine that we use in our global products. It's coming out of Rayong, Thailand. It's the same diesel, but obviously modified for the after treatment. … [The take rate is] probably going to be a decent percentage, probably on the order of 10 [percent]. Obviously we don't have set volumes at this point for it, but that's what my take is."
Global Versus North American Versions
"When I started this project, I was on assignment in Brazil where our global midsize pickup truck was engineered. That is their truck that really covers the truck segment. They [Brazilians] don't … have demand for what we consider a full-size truck. The functionality and usage of a midsize truck covers all bases. … There are significant differences. Obviously, we took the learnings [sic] from our global truck, it's still the midsize truck architecture, as well as we looked at our full-size truck learnings, and we leveraged both of those to develop this. Looking at the North American market versus Thailand, the Asia market, South America — they have different market expectations and needs. Again, looking at the global truck, its needs from a payload standpoint and functionality are different than this one, as well as our safety standards, etc. … [The global truck] is a midsize, but its payload capability is what we would consider light-duty full-size because they don't have that. … It's of course going to perform differently from a ride, handling and mass standpoint because of those needs."
Expectations for the Commercial Market
"It's obviously there. It's got the capability. Chevy's got three trim levels. … That base will obviously be key for our fleets and work-truck level. … All the trucks come with a six-speed automatic; the two-wheel-drive extended-cab base trim also has a six-speed manual. So, again, that will show some interest for our fleet and commercial use. … We do not have a regular cab, just a crew and extended; on our extended cab we do have the feasibility of ordering that truck with a second-row seat delete, so that way they have a closed-cabin functionality."