Continuing to diversify its truck portfolio, General Motors on Sunday showed off the second of its smaller trucks, the GMC Canyon, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
GM is convinced that America’s love affair with pickup trucks is enduring. But consumers also want smaller vehicles that provide the same utility with less fuel.
“They are looking for something that is easier to live with, to park and maybe at a lower purchase price,” said Roger McCormack, director of Buick/GMC marketing for GM.
GM is targeting the truck directly at the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Together, those trucks sell about 225,000 a year. But they are aging vehicles, needing redesigns and lacking the refinement GM claims the Canyon will offer.
Young truck buyers will be jazzed by the new GM offerings, said Karl Brauer, an analyst with car information company Kelley Blue Book. “The Tacoma and Frontier are neither impressive nor modern.”
Moreover, many truck buyers lean toward purchasing from a U.S.-based company, Brauer said.
The Canyon will offer the cargo and hauling that truck buyers want but with a quiet, comfortable interior and the latest phone and entertainment technology, McCormack said.
GM will offer two engine choices for the Canyon: a 2.5-liter four-banger that will produce 193 horsepower and a larger 3.6-liter six-cylinder that will provide 302 horsepower.
The towing capacity on the truck with the larger engine will reach 6,700 pounds. It will be able to carry a payload of 1,450 pounds. Four-wheel drive is available.
GM plans to offer a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine two years from now.
Although GM talks about the Canyon as a “smaller” truck, it is still pretty big. Today's smaller trucks are much beefier than the last generation of compact pickups, such as the tiny Hilux, a very plain and noisy vehicle sold by Toyota decades ago.
The Canyon will be classified as a mid-size truck. The basic crew cab version is 212.4 inches, 17 inches shorter than the full-size GMC Sierra. At 74.6 inches wide, the Canyon is about 5 inches narrower than the Sierra.
GM will offer three body configurations: an extended cab model with a 6-foot bed, a crew cab with a 5-foot bed and a crew cab with a 6-foot bed. With the tailgate down, the 6-foot bed can haul 8-foot-long items.
And since smaller trucks are often a favorite first vehicle for teen drivers, GM is equipping the Canyon with a special driver minder feature.
The “Teen Driver” feature allows parents to limit the radio volume, establish a speed warning between 40 and 70 miles per hour and set a speed limit. The feature also mutes the radio when the driver or front passenger safety belt is not fastened. Finally it issues a “report card” that records mileage, wide-open throttle events, anti-lock brake situations, maximum speed readings and other data. All these features are locked by a PIN that is set by the parent.
The Canyon will fill a void left by the gradual change of sport-utility vehicles from rugged truck-based autos to softer people haulers that are built atop car platforms, said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific Inc., an industry consulting firm.
“This will sell to the do-it-yourself kind of guy who goes to the lumberyard on the weekends or goes hunting and wants to throw a deer in the truck bed,” Sullivan said. ”You wouldn’t do that with your wife’s Ford Explorer.”
When the Canyon goes on sale later this year, GM will have two mid-size offerings. The Canyon is essentially an upscale version of the Chevrolet Colorado, which also reaches dealers this year.
GM thinks the market is about to grow, especially as consumers look for better fuel economy and the government imposes stricter mileage standards.
McCormack is encouraged that when Ford and Chrysler abandoned the mid-size truck market several years ago, the sales volume stayed the same, which Toyota picking up sales. He thinks this signals that a new entrant such as the Canyon will jump-start growth in the segment.
He said there are potential buyers from other segments, people who drive SUVs and sedans now but who would buy a mid-size pickup if there was one on the market that they liked.
GM has yet to release price information or fuel economy numbers, but the automaker did say it believes that the Canyon will get better mileage than the Toyota and Nissan trucks.
“This is really an untapped market for GM,” Brauer said. “You know Ford and Chrysler will be watching carefully.”
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