During our drive of both the 2019 GMC Sierra Elevation and the 2019 GMC Canyon Elevation, we sat down with Mark Alger, National Marketing Manager of GMC Canada, to talk about the positioning of the GM’s midsize trucks in a segment that’s becoming ever more crowded.
Alger shared his thoughts about the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado not getting an expected mid-cycle refresh, which was widely expected for the 2020 model year. We also discussed how he perceives the new competition to the Colorado and Canyon, with new-to-segment entrants like the Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator. As it turns out, GM isn’t too worried, at least, not for now.
“We know our two midsize trucks are showing age, but then again, is the Ford Ranger really all that new? From our point of view, it’s not newer than our trucks. Gladiator is a cool one, there’s no doubt, but it’s also significantly more expensive than ours and fills a different niche. The same applies for [Honda] Ridgeline. We’re in a good spot with Canyon/Colorado. We’re not too worried of our current competition.”
Alger isn’t entirely wrong. The Colorado/Canyon combo has sold over 180,000 units combined in the U.S. and Canada in 2018 (see Colorado and Canyon sales). From a sales volume standpoint, the duo is only outpaced by the Toyota Tacoma. And with an affordable entry-level price, class-leading towing capacity, a solid off-road Colorado ZR2 model to take on Gladiator and TRD Pro, plus three engine choices – the naturally aspirated 2.5L LCV I4 (200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet) and 3.6L LGZ V6 (308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque) as well as the 2.8L LWN I4 turbo-diesel Duramax (181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque) – there’s plenty of variety in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon to satisfy all needs.
That said, a Volkswagen light-duty truck is currently in the works, which could sell at a more affordable price point than the Colorado and Canyon.
The GM Authority Take
On the GMC side, there’s work to be done, as Canyon sales are falling faster than the segment in the U.S. In fact, Canyon sales fell nearly 4 percent in Q1 2019 while the segment grew nearly 14 percent. Interestingly enough, Canyon sales are consistent with Colorado in Canada, which proves that the problem isn’t the product itself, but the way it’s marketed. Perhaps the issue, at least for U.S. buyers, is that Canyon has no distinctive attributes to set it apart from Colorado, aside from the range-topping Canyon Denali model – itself an expensive proposition.
Now, we have been expecting a Canyon AT4 model to be added to the lineup, which would definitely give the Canyon a much-needed bump. And we’ve already discussed how the Canyon Elevation package, new for 2019, should help the Canyon earn some further differentiation in the marketplace.
What’s more, while sales of GM small trucks are healthy, consumers could walk away from a Chevrolet or GMC showroom due to a lack of modern features that are now expected in a modern pickup, such as a keyless entry, push-button start, a sunroof, or HID or LED headlights. Each of those features is currently not available in either the Canyon or the Colorado.
We’ll need to wait a few more years for GM’s all-new truck architecture, the VSS-T vehicle set, to arrive and permeate across all of the automaker’s body-on-frame vehicles. Until then, it’ll be interesting to see how the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado corporate cousins will fare against their newfound rivals – the new Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator.