Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – General Motors sees an opening in the U.S. midsize-pickup segment it will try to fill with its no-frills global Chevrolet entry coming to market.

The new pickup is known as the Colorado overseas, but the name may not carry over to the U.S., even though the truck it replaces here shares the same moniker.

The current segment leader in U.S. midsize pickup trucks is the Toyota Tacoma.

“(Toyota) did well with a very light-duty truck that was more sport-, accessory- and lifestyle-oriented, which is fine,” General Motors North American President Mark Reuss tells media in a roundtable discussion at the auto show here.

“There’s still a great market for that, but I don’t think that’s the end-all as we look at the operating costs, fuel and regulatory environment,” he says, noting low operating costs over a 10-year period will be key to the coming Chevy model.

“Full-blown” hybridization is out of the question due to high costs of implementation that would be passed on to the consumer, Reuss says.

However, he believes GM could “do things with lower displacements, charging, hybridization (and) alternate fuels that make a hell of a lot more sense when you have lighter mass and a smaller duty-cycle.”

Reuss stresses the importance of not allowing a midsize pickup to intrude on GM’s fullsize truck sales.

“I’ve heard this repeated a million times: Why am I going to go buy a midsize when I can buy a cheap fullsize?” he says. “So I think the operating costs and emissions piece of that is the big game-changer.

Also, the way we’re going to do this is quite different from the way we go to market with big pickup trucks on a brand basis.”

Reuss doesn’t discount a GMC version, but it would have to be quite different from the Chevy.

“It would go after a different market segment (and have) way-different skin, a different duty-cycle, different price points, different variants,” he says.

The GMC version could be a more direct competitor to the lifestyle-oriented Tacoma, he adds.

Meanwhile, Reuss says GM decided to take down its Lordstown, OH, Chevy Cruze production line because inventories are at an optimal level, 73 days’ supply, and it doesn’t want to boost incentives to clear out current stock.

The Cruze lost compact market share in October, as Japanese brands finally were able to rebuild inventories following fallout from the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March.

Reuss categorizes 73 days of inventory as just the right amount.

However, it is above the 53-day industry average for cars in October and higher than the days’ supply of the U.S.-built Honda Civic (47) and Toyota Corolla/Matrix (51), WardsAuto data shows.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com