GM fights Toyota alone in the US for compact pick-up crown image

As Ford and Chrysler have abandoned the segment for the fatter profits of more massive trucks, GM now stands alone in its quest to go bumper-to-bumper with Toyota for what’s left of the compact pickup market.

Ford no longer makes its Ranger for North America and Chrysler’s Ram brand has shelved plans for a successor to the Dakota. This is mainly because unlike full-size trucks, of which Americans will buy about 1.9 million this year, compact pickups are almost a niche market on pace to sell about 225,000 this year.

Dominating the market is the Toyota Tacoma, which has sold 146,724 through November.

“We have this diamond — a 150,000-unit annually pickup truck,” and it sells with zero incentives, said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations. “Our business hasn’t declined. It’s just that (nearly) everybody has pulled out.”

The closest competitor is the Nissan Frontier, with less than 58,000 U.S. sales this year through November. Honda has sold 16,160 Ridgelines. Chrysler, so far, is betting the segment will shrink. But Jeep chief Mike Manley would love to see the return of a Jeep pickup. On the other hand, Ford sells the Ranger everywhere but North America. Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said Ford is not re-evaluating its decision to stop selling the Ranger in the U.S.

GM was unveiled a new Chevrolet Colorado last month at the Los Angeles auto show. Sometime in the next year or so it likely will add a ZR2 off-road version. Mark Reuss, GM North America president, said there is a lot of opportunity for special editions and accessories. Also, the GMC Canyon, which has not been revealed yet, looks more like a full-size truck, Reuss said.

Pricing of the small trucks’ top trim levels will overlap with entry-level full-size trucks. But Reuss said the small truck buyer appreciates its smaller dimensions and driving something almost 1,000 pounds lighter than a Chevy Silverado.