Compact Truck Market Reboot – Small Trucks Making a Comeback?

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A story has come out that Chevy is considering bring back the LUV to the U.S. market. For the first time in years, we could have a truly compact truck for sale. Good or bad idea?

Compact Truck Market Reboot - Small Trucks Making a Comeback?

This is the Chevy Montana that is sold in Latin America. Could it work in the U.S. market?

According to a Jalopnik journalist, several GM engineers told him that GM is working on a “new LUV project.” This was after he peppered them for a while at a press event. The off-the-record conversation has stirred up a larger conversation on the possible return of compact trucks.

Many journalists have linked the news to an idea that GM could bring over the Brazilian-built Chevy Montana. This is a compact truck is sold in Latin America and really is just an updated version of the LUV (sold from 1972-1981 when it was replaced by the S-10). It is powered by a 4-cylinder engine with a 5-speed manual. It would likely be updated with a 6-speed automatic that will be used in the new Chevy Colorado (sorry, manual fans).

Why do we say the return of comeback compact trucks? The reality with compact trucks is that they have slowly grown into a “mid-size” model. For example, a 2014 Toyota Tacoma isn’t anything like the truly compact models of the 1980s.

Pros For A New Compact Truck

Over the past decade, there has been a growing demand for a return to the smaller size. Certain customers need a truck, but don’t want the larger size that is harder to drive and is more difficult to access the bed. A great example of this customer is Orkin. They had been a large purchaser of the Ford Ranger. Ford thought they would simply move up to the F150, yet they bought Toyota Tacoma’s instead. Why? The smaller size of the Tacoma means their employees can more easily access the bed and it was easier for all their employees to drive. There are plenty of companies out there like Orkin and many consumers who have similar needs.

GM has been talking a lot as of late of offering a product for every customer. This PR talk surrounds their multi-pronged truck strategy: mid-size, full-size and HD models. Introducing a compact truck to the mix would allow them to expand their offerings in every segment as well as give them a leg up on the competition by having the first model.

Another pro for a compact truck is all the talk about the pending 2016 CAFE regulations. A compact truck with a presumed small footprint and great fuel economy is a CAFE slam dunk. Having this type of vehicle in their lineup would further help GM meet those requirements.

Cons to a Compact Truck

The reality is that you can go to just about any truck forum and find a conversation on truck size. While there are undoubtedly people who would like a small truck, it is really hard to gauge how much interest there really is for one. RAM, Ford and Toyota are on record as saying they don’t see the business case for building such a truck. Yet, that is just speculation based on “market analysis.” That same analysis said for years that a half-ton diesel didn’t make any sense either. And yet, the variety of diesel half-tons coming to market in the next few years is simply stunning.

One big con to a compact truck is price and product differentiation. Ford recently had this problem and it lead to the Ranger being killed off. They just simply couldn’t price nor build the Ranger to be that much different from the F150. How different would a compact truck have to be for it to succeed? Quite likely, a lot. If you use the same engine, transmission and the price point isn’t that much different, why even offer one?

Overall, while it seems like this idea doesn’t make much sense, GM has been cashing in on some of their risk taking lately. Mark Reuss, GM Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, recently said as much in an Automobile Magazine. He points out that critics said GM couldn’t sell the Chevy Spark and the Buick Encore in the U.S. Yet, both products are selling really well and Chevy is having some difficulty keeping up with the demand for the Spark, according to Reuss.

“I love doing things that make sense, that no one else is doing,” said Reuss.

Does a compact truck make sense? Depends. However, Reuss is part of GM’s executive team and he could be a big reason why the LUV may make a reappearance.

What do you think? Is it time for a truly compact truck to re-emerge? Will people move down from the mid-size and full-size trucks?

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  1. GoBig says:

    In my world, the compact never left. My daily driver is my 1985 Toyota Pickup that I purchased in 1987. It is still on the stock engine, and runs fine. How many people driving a 30 year old truck can make that claim?

    Sure there are trade offs. My truck lacks towing and hauling capability of full size trucks, yet is so much better when it comes to parking lots or garages.

    I have also gone off roading with full size trucks, and mine seems to spank them every time. The short wheelbase comes in handy.

    It’s all about personal preference and intended use in my book. There seems to be a market. The Tacoma dominate in Alaska. They are everywhere.

    • Larry says:

      Tacoma doesn’t just dominate in Alaska, they dominate the world over.

      I wouldn’t even think about a light compact GM thing. What chance is there that a GM fake truck will last even 1/3 as long a a Tacoma. This is yet more proof of how bad GM is. If it doesn’t have a frame it’s not a truck, it’s a car which needs to stay on a paved road.

      If I could live with the small payload area of a small truck it would be Toyota only.

      With regard to preferences, preferences must be secondary, quality, long life and lowest cost of ownership must be number 1 in a consumers mind. Give into something you like because of appearance or factors other then total cost of ownership an it’s going to take money out of your pocket for no performance.

      Money isn’t for buying trucks, we need money to buy our freedom. No truck is worth making payments which requires us to put up with being locked into a bad job. Especially if it a fake GM thing they call a truck.

  2. Randy says:

    If I wanted a compact car/truck, I would get a Ridgeline Honda.

    If I wanted a compact real truck/truck, I would get a Tacoma.

    Those are the only two real choices available.

  3. Mickey says:

    Agree with all above statements. Couldn’t have said it better Randy.

  4. mendonsy says:

    I think that the small SUV has basically eliminated that market segment. If Subaru couldn’t sustain theirs I doubt that there is enough of a market to justify building one.

  5. mk says:

    I personally don’t see a huge market around where I live. For most, bigger is better plus the 4 cylinder and 6 cylinders don’t get much better mpg low 20’s at best. I sat in new 4 full sized door tacoma at a dealer showroom and felt totally crowded in front and back seats wasn’t wide enough or enough legroom for my tastes felt very small.

    I did like my 1996 chevy s-10 ext. cab 2wd 4.3L V6 before we had kids it had plenty of spunk and fun to drive around for ONLY 2 people.

  6. Brian says:

    I think Gm should bring back s10 and sonoma to replace Colorado and canyon

  7. Brian says:

    And Gm should replace the trailblazer with the convertible k5 blazer so u can enjoy the summer with cap off like ford is bringing the fullsize bronco back in 2016

  8. dave says:

    The little montana, with a tiny diesel, could get crazy mileage. The real point of this truck is the starting price of around 15,000. Look at it on chevy mexico web site. If ford offers a small compact, it could b around this size. Granted chevy based this off of the sonic car, i doubt ford will base a truck off of a focus/fiesta platform. I’m no chevy fan, but just to run errands in, the chevy montana would work great for me.

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