New Chevrolet Colorado Concept Begs the Fuel Economy Question: Where oh Where is Ford’s Small U.S. Pickup?

Thailand was a natural place to give the public a first glimpse of our all-new Colorado, said GM.

Chevrolet has released a teaser photo of its new Colorado concept truck that will officially be unveiled prior to the Bangkok International Motor Show on March 25. Chevrolet also confirmed plans to have the new Colorado ultimately available in the U.S. as gasoline prices soar once again.

Thailand is among the largest pickup truck markets in the world, with small pickups making up more than 40% of the vehicle market because of government incentives. Ford (actually Mazda runs the plant), GM and Toyota all manufacture small to mid-size pickup trucks in Thailand and export them.

The Colorado show truck previews the next-generation mid-size Chevrolet pickup truck, which goes on sale in Thailand later this year, and could appear in the U.S. a year or so later. A Chevrolet spokesperson refused to say if it would be imported or locally made, a volatile issue in what is a UAW contract year, and for what remains a low volume truck at 5,000 units year-to-date.

Jim Dunne for - Copyright 2011

Ford, which once dominated the compact pickup truck segment in the U.S., has said that it will close its Twin Cities, Minn., Ranger plant at the end of this year. Ford officially says it plans to offer instead more fuel efficient models of the gigantic F-150 pickup, still the best selling vehicle in the U.S. at 74,000 units year-to-date.

The Toyota Tacoma is currently the best selling mid-size pickup truck in the U.S. at more than 15,000 units year-to-date, outselling by more than 2:1 an ancient Ranger – whose last major redesign was in 2001.

Production of the current Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in Shreveport, La., is scheduled to end when the plant closes no later than June 2012 after a deal to sell the plant to the Chinese fell through. Shreveport also built the now defunct Hummer H3.  The plant was a victim of the GM bankruptcy as well as rising gasoline prices in 2008 which caused truck sales to plummet.

Ford is also known to be testing what appears to be a smaller F-100 in the Northern U.S., which it will sell in right-hand drive versions in Australia.

Complicating a potential continuation of the Ford Ranger in the U.S. are several factors: Sales of its F-150 full size truck at 500,000 units annually are far below its record year of 940,000 in the earlier part of the century, robbing Ford manufacturing of badly needed economies of scale.

More significant perhaps is an impending UAW contract in the U.S. which expires this year. Ford is the only automaker of the Detroit Three, which doesn’t have a “no strike” clause, which was inserted into GM and Chrysler contracts by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of its taxpayer financed reorganizations of the bankrupt companies. This makes Ford a natural target for the UAW. Importing the new Ranger from Thailand, as Ford will for European and Asian sales, would be controversial, to understate the problem.

Ford insiders say an all-new Ranger will officially debut at the Bangkok Motor Show. Ford has big plans for the new Ranger, claiming it will ultimately be sold in 180 markets and built starting later this year in three manufacturing locations after it is fully rolled out. So let’s see. Asian is confirmed. South America is also a good guess. That leaves North America as the likely third location. The question remains where will it be built?

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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1 Response to New Chevrolet Colorado Concept Begs the Fuel Economy Question: Where oh Where is Ford’s Small U.S. Pickup?

  1. Warren Cockrell says:

    Very savvy piece. Wraps it all up in one package.

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