Back in 2000, there were eight mid-size pickup models on the market. Today there are only three with Toyota's Tacoma and Nissan's Frontier comprising the lion's share of new deliveries and Honda’s Ridgeline with the smallest piece of the pie. As a percentage of total new vehicle sales, mid-size pickups were responsible for 6.2% of all deliveries in 2000, although by the end of last year the segment's share had fallen to just 2%. Recent sales show that through October of this year share has fallen even further, reaching a scant 1.6%.
The falloff in new vehicle sales has led to a reduction in used vehicle supply, and as we know from Economics 101, a big drop in supply without a commensurate dip in demand generally leads to higher prices. This has certainly been the case for used mid-size pickup prices. Much has been made about the growth in used large pickup prices over the past few years; but in fact, used mid-size pickup price growth has outpaced that of their larger sibling by a wide margin.
From the beginning of 2010 through October of this year, mid-size pickups have grown by 31%, seven percentage points more than the 24% rise in large pickup prices. Certainly a portion of this increase is due to the Tacoma's larger share of the overall used population; the model has historically been one of the slowest depreciating vehicles on the market, let alone the segment. Thus, prices on a like-model basis have improved substantially across the board.
Case-in-point, November's edition of NADA's Official Used Car Guide® has the average trade-in value on a 2012 model year Chevy Colorado 10% higher on average than a comparable 2011 model year unit. A similar pattern holds true across other makes and models. Considering the appeal of the segment in terms of versatility, affordability relative to larger pickups and gains made in used price retention, it makes sense that GM would reintroduce new competitors to the field.
The key will be to consistently field product with the qualities that keep consumers from sidestepping the segment on the move up to a large pickup. In the past, OEMs built mid-size trucks with merely adequate power and even when it was sufficient, fuel economy was lousy. In addition, models languished for years with little to no changes as R&D money was allocated to other models deemed more important. Over time, these inadequacies relegated the segment to extra player status on the stage of consumer awareness.
GM’s return to the mid-size pickup segment with the Chevrolet Colorado couldn’t come at a better time; it’s only two main competitors – the Tacoma and Frontier – have been around in the same unchanged forms since 2005, and the Ridgeline was introduced in 2006. In fact, the Ridgeline will go on hiatus after 2014 and return with a redesigned model sometime in 2016, meaning GM will only have two Japanese competitors to go up against. With favorable new truck sales and nearly nonexistent fresh competition, it appears GM picked the perfect time to return to the party.
Checking out the Colorado first hand at the LA Auto Show, it looks like GM finally has all of the right ingredients for success in the mid-size segment. Unlike the previous generation, the new Colorado actually looks like something you’d get excited to drive. In the flesh, it’s bigger and more muscular, and most importantly doesn’t resemble a rolling appliance.
Under the new Colorado’s hood will be a standard 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 193 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. GM says that peak torque in the four-cylinder will be available between 2,000 to 6,000 rpm, which should get the mid-size moving fairly well without ringing it out. If the standard engine doesn’t cut it, a 3.6-liter V6 with 302 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque will be an available option. The biggest bombshell that GM dropped is the optional first-in-class 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder, which should make its way into the 2016 model year option list.
Sales expectations and pricing for the Colorado’s three trim levels have yet to be officially announced by GM; final details are expected closer to its fall 2014 launch date. However, IHS Global Insight forecasts 60,346 Colorado sales in 2015, while LMC Automotive expects a slightly milder figure of 50,017 units. To put this in perspective, new Colorado sales reached 36,840 during its final year of production in 2012, which was slightly better than its final three-year sales average of 30,836 units.