One of the more curious developments at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week was the return of the Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck. General Motors ended production of the Colorado and its cousin, the GMC Canyon, early last year. At the time, the decision seemed to be the final curtain for small and midsize domestic pickups, as it followed Ford's decision to kill the Ranger and Chrysler's decision to end production of the Dodge Dakota.
Does Chevy's revival of the Colorado mean a new dawn for the segment overall? Yes and no. The Colorado's reinvention essentially provides a peek at how automakers tackle the same problem in two different ways. GM's approach is to create a new midsize pickup. Chrysler's approach, on the other hand, would seem to focus more on the prospective buyer than the product itself.
Bigland argues the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is essentially competing for the same buyers as the Colorado.
Reid Bigland, head of Ram Truck for Chrysler, argues the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, scheduled to arrive in showrooms in March 2014, is essentially competing for the same buyers as the Colorado.
At first glance, there's not a lot in common. The fullsize Ram 1500's 3.0-liter V6 engine produces 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque and can tow 9,200 pounds. The midsize Colorado has a standard 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 193 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and can tow 6,700 pounds. The common denominator, Bigland tells Autoblog, is that prospective buyers of both emphasize fuel economy.
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"The customer who is concerned about fuel economy can now move up," he said. The EcoDiesel is projected to achieve 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, significantly better than the standard Ram 1500, which achieves 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway with its standard 3.6-liter gasoline engine. Fuel economy numbers on the '15 Colorado have not yet been released. By comparison, the Toyota Tacoma, the sales leader of the few remaining automakers in the midsize pickup segment, achieves 21 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Bigland figures if Ram can offer gas-conscious buyers the fuel economy of a small pickup in a full-size format, that's a winning formula. "These customers want a number of things, and they really want great fuel economy," he said. "They want a relevant pickup ... and in the case of EcoDiesel, we can deliver that fuel economy with, really, no compromises."
There may be one significant fly in Bigland's ointment, however. Pricing has not yet been announced for either truck, but the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is all but certain to be many thousands of dollars more costly than even a well-outfitted Colorado.
Chrysler has placed a big bet on diesel overall over the past year, bringing a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee to the market amid much fanfare. Pickups, Bigland said, are a natural extension of that, because drivers of heavy-duty pickups are already accustomed to the fuel.
"The customer who is concerned about fuel economy can now move up."
The Colorado has commanded considerable attention at the LA Auto Show. "The new Colorado, with its bold styling, lightweight engineering and lifestyle-friendly equipment should take a bite out of existing Tacoma and Frontier sales," said Karl Brauer, Director of Insights for Kelley Blue Book. It's the truck that "domestic truck fans have been patiently waiting for, a compelling compact from Detroit."
Though its not yet in showrooms, the EcoDiesel has garnered similar early honors, winning Truck of Texas and Canada's Truck King Challenge. That means, among other things, Ram won't be thinking about reviving the Dodge Dakota any time soon.
"Never say never," Bigland said. "I've seen a lot of things in this industry. But we're confident that we're in the right place."