GMC Canyon Is the Yin to Chevy Colorado’s Yang

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General Motors (NYSE:GM) is responding to the segment-leading Toyota (NYSE:TM) Tacoma with not a single stab but rather a two-pronged attack to try and shake up Toyota’s domination of the smaller pickup truck market. The first prong of GM’s strategy came in the form of a new Chevrolet Colorado, which is already seeing action globally but is not on sale in the United States. The second prong is the Colorado’s corporate sibling, the GMC Canyon, which was just introduced on Sunday evening, ahead of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Both Ford (NYSE:F) and Chrysler Group (FIATY.PK) each had players in the segment — the Ranger and Dakota, respectively — though the two models were yanked about two years ago. General Motors stopped producing the U.S.-spec Colorado and Canyon trucks around the same time, essentially leaving the market wide open for Toyota and, to a lesser extent, Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) Frontier.

However, as fuel economy concerns grow — both for consumers who have to deal with the pump prices and manufacturers that are under pressure to adhere to more stringent fleet fuel consumption regulations — companies are finding that the breed of smaller, more efficient pickup trucks is an irresistibly appetizing market opportunity.

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“Other manufacturers have either ignored or abandoned [the midsize truck segment], meaning customers have had to compromise,” The Wall Street Journal reports Mary Barra, who is taking over General Motors from incumbent CEO Dan Akerson this week, as saying. “That is no way to treat the customer, and it is an opportunity knocking.”

The Canyon will be loaded with the buyer’s choice of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, and like the Colorado, a diesel engine will be an option for the 2016 model. While the Colorado is geared for the more active work and play crowd, the Canyon will reportedly be more luxurious, with greater headroom and a more accommodating interior.

Outside, the Canyon looks like a baby Sierra — that is to say, there’s nothing surprising about GM’s design language. The Colorado, though, is a fairly distant departure to the new Silverado, the truck that it is slotted in beneath.

“The question is do consumers determine the size of the market or selection of vehicles,” Kelley Blue Book analyst Eric Ibara told The Wall Street Journal. ”That will be put to the test on whether the Canyon and Colorado can bring consumers back into the segment and if they can then over take Tacoma.”

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The Tacoma accounted for about 70 percent of the segment’s sales in 2013, while Nissan owned the remaining 30 percent or so. That equates to 159,485 Tacoma pickups and 62,837 Frontier pickups.

The Canyon will boast a payload capability of 1,450 pounds, as well as a maximum trailering rating (when properly equipped) of at least 6,700 pounds. GMC claims that these figures are both segment-leading.

“Not everyone needs full-size capability, but they still deserve strength and true-truck attributes that come in larger models. The Canyon will offer all the capability with confidence — and GMC’s signature refinement that complements active lifestyles,” said Tony DiSalle, vice president of GMC Marketing, in GMC’s press statement. “It also delivers the technology customers want with more standard features.”

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