The mid-size truck market is about to get a lot bigger, more exciting, and a lot more crowded. The new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are already out, and by any measure have been a smashing success.
Sales have been strong, and right out of the gate the Colorado won Motor Trend’s 2015 Truck of the Year. Consider that it beat the all-new full-size aluminum Ford F-150, and you get some perspective on how important this new mid-size truck is going to be for GM.
The Colorado and its Canyon twin are re-entering a market that the big-three truck makers walked away from and conceded to Toyota and Nissan. We may never truly know why Ford, Dodge, and GM quit this market, but the Colorado’s successful return is even more impressive given how fanatical Toyota Tacoma owners are. Tacoma forums and blogs are some of the most active in the on-line automotive world. Tacoma buyers have pushed it to number one in the industry for resale value despite corrosion problems so serious that Toyota is replacing the entire frame under owner’s trucks at no charge.
Stories predicting the changes to the new 2016 Tacoma redesign drew pleading comments from owners and fans hoping that Toyota wouldn’t change the truck – at all. That could not happen. Toyota’s 4-cylinder Tacoma fuel economy was surpassed by the 6-cylinder Colorado, a situation Toyota just could not let stand. At the launch event, Toyota was unclear about whether a base four-cylinder with a manual stick shift would still be offered. Panic ensued until Toyota promised it would return.
For 2016, Toyota completely redesigned the Tacoma. However, it is a stealth redesign. The truck looks very similar to the outgoing classic, but Toyota’s lead engineer was quoted as saying everything changes except the door handles. The base four-cylinder will share some parts with the older model, but the V-6 is entirely new. Toyota promises the new V6 will have more power than ever before but is smaller and will run the fuel-sipping Atkinson cycle common in hybrids. Toyota will also change up the Tacoma’s transmissions to move the needle on fuel economy. None of this would have happened if not for GM reentering this market.
Honda is coming back too. The Ridgeline took a break, and nobody noticed. However, don’t count Honda out. The days of a truck needing to be ginormous and just for cowboys have long passed. The Chevy Colorado’s top market for sales is now the city of Los Angeles.
Too many auto news outlets are still scripting this coming chapter in the evolution of the pickup as Chevy’s Colorado vs. the Toyota Tacoma in a win-lose fight. Quite the contrary, both Toyota, and GM are staffing up to full capacity in their truck factories. They can see that the tide is rising and will lift all boats.