By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 11:43 am
 
Ahead of its formal debut at the Bangkok Motor Show, Chevrolet unwrapped a new version of its smaller pickup aimed primarily at the Asian market - but it's a design that could very well be headed to North America.

Technically debuting as a concept car, the Chevrolet Colorado Show Truck nonetheless very closely previews the production model. Remove the oversize wheels and fancy trim and the production model becomes readily apparent.

The new Colorado is expected to grow in size compared to the outgoing vehicle. Built in both Thailand and the United States, the current Colorado is far more popular abroad than it is in its home market, where it sells at well less than one tenth the rate of its larger Chevrolet Silverado sibling.

Although the initial preview image clearly showed a crew cab truck, the concept vehicle that debuted in Bangkok today is an extended cab model. Its Chevrolet global market face is familiar; it draws many elements that first debuted on the current Chevrolet Malibu and Equinox, but adds in more swept back tail lamps a more rugged style to its lower finish.

Chevrolet says that the concept truck features a "high stance AWD chassis" and a 2.8-liter turbodiesel. A fully boxed ladder frame with a rugged suspension ready to handle emerging markets will undoubtedly underpin the production model.

Inside, Chevrolet's dual-cowl dashboard has been toned down. The show car's steering wheel is on the right. Lavishly equipped with perforated leather trim, dual zone automatic climate control and a navigation system unrelated to the setup offered in North America, the interior is mostly production ready. Take away some of the luxuries and the production interior is readily apparent. Interestingly, few interior components are shared with any North American GM product, including the unique three-spoke steering wheel and the HVAC controls.

Ready for Asia
GM acknowledges that the Asian market continually outperforms North America when it comes to smaller pickups.

"Trucks play a key role in most Southeast Asian markets," said Susan Docherty, vice president, GMIO Sales, Marketing and Aftersales, in a statement released to the media. "Nowhere is this more evident than in Thailand, where trucks like the Colorado are ingrained in the local lifestyle. Thailand was a natural place to give the public a first glimpse of our all-new Colorado."

Chevrolet says that smaller trucks account for nearly half of the Thai market, while the Colorado and its GMC Canyon twin barely register on buyers' radar here.

Made for America?
Hoping to end - or at least refuel - speculation that its entry-level pickup was not set for a North American return, a GM spokesman confirmed that the automaker plans to continue offering the Chevrolet Colorado in its home market.

"We have expectations for having a future Colorado in North America," Chevy spokesman Mike Albano told the Detroit Free Press.

After it filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to shutter the Shreveport, Louisiana, assembly plant where the Colorado and its GMC Canyon sibling are made, GM had suggested that the small pickups would be phased out.

Now it appears that the company has performed an about-face and that a version of the small truck will indeed be offered.

It has long been unclear just how GM plans to address its position in the entry-level truck market in North America. The market's volume players have long been the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, although the Colorado has experienced an unexpected surge in demand so far this year. Colorado sales are up 51 percent, even though they still trail all rivals aside from Chrysler's Dakota.

Ford will officially exit the compact market for the first time in more than 40 years next year when it drops the dated Ranger. The automaker hopes that its V6-equipped F-150 will fill the Ranger's shoes. Meanwhile, Chrysler says that the Dakota will be redesigned and repositioned as a lifestyle vehicle, although details and rumors from Auburn Hills are sketchy at best. The automaker's Ram 1500 trucks now offer a cut-price HEMI V8 that the company hopes will lure in buyers on a budget.

But GM hasn't made a similar move for its Silverado and Sierra models.

References
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