General Motors Co. on Sunday unveiled the 2015 GMC Canyon midsize pickup, a stylish truck due this fall that the automaker hopes will win customers driving other midsize pickups or full-size trucks — or who left behind trucks altogether for crossovers and cars.
The 2015 Canyon looks different than its sibling, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, which premiered in November at the LA Auto Show. The Canyon, last produced in summer 2012, more closely mirrors the premium looks of the GMC Sierra light- and heavy-duty pickups. The Sierra was newly designed for the 2014 model year, and the updated 2015 Sierra HD is due in showrooms early this year.
GM debuted the Canyon in a Detroit industrial building on the eve of press days for the North American International Auto Show. The media-only event attracted about 500 journalists who swarmed around Mary Barra, GM’s soon-to-be new CEO. Barra, the first woman to lead an automaker, officially takes over Wednesday.
The midsize trucks complete GM’s three-size truck strategy across two brands, with GMC positioned as a more upscale choice. GM’s new midsize trucks go up against the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, which command the midsize market now that the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota are no longer produced.
“We want to steal people from big pickup trucks and other brands with the GMC,” GM North America President Mark Reuss said in a recent interview.
But it may be tough. The midsize market has shrunk considerably over the past three decades, from a peak of about 1.4 million sold in the U.S. in 1986 to about 227,000 last year.
“Other manufacturers have either ignored it or abandoned it,” Barra said Sunday of the midsize pickup segment.
“That means the midsize pickup customers have to compromise. To get the features, content and amenities they’re looking for, they either had to leave the segment most often to a compact crossover or car, or chose from a limited selection. To us, that is no way to treat the customer. And it’s opportunity knocking.”
Tony DiSalle, vice president of GMC marketing, said GM sees a “huge” opportunity for growth in the segment, in part because of orphaned midsize truck buyers. The company says half of midsize pickup buyers don’t buy another one.
GM research found many midsize pickup buyers want a quieter, more stylish truck, with more room in the front and second rows. They want more comfort and better fuel economy.
According to DiSalle, “You get all the capability, you get the functionality, you’ve got a pickup bed, but you’ve got great ride dynamics. You’ve got comfort and you have a lot of more upscale kinds of features and amenities.”
Re-entering the midsize pickup market is a risk for GM, but it could prove to be successful, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive. Schuster said the automaker, which is building the trucks to help meet fuel economy regulations, is banking on customers who don’t need a full-size truck, and who want better fuel economy and a lower price. Pricing and fuel economy for the Canyon have not been announced.
The pickup will be available in either two- or four-wheel drive with an extended cab and 6-foot bed; crew cab with 5-foot bed; or crew cab with 6-foot bed. Base, SLE and SLT trim models are available, with an All Terrain styling package optional on SLE models. A Denali model won’t be available at the start of production and DiSalle wouldn’t comment on a possibility for the future.
A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with an estimated 193 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque is standard. A 3.6-liter V-6 engine generating an estimated 302 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque is an option.
A six-speed manual transmission will be offered, but only with the four-cylinder engine and for the base extended-cab, two-wheel drive model.
In the 2016 model year, GM will offer a segment-first diesel, the Duramax 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel.
“We expect these trucks to be best in class when tested for fuel economy,” Luke said.
Luke said the Canyon, built at GM’s Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri, is expected to be at the top of the segment with a payload capacity of at least 1,450 pounds and towing capacity of at least 6,700 pounds.
The Canyon will be available with a Wi-Fi hotspot through an embedded OnStar 4G LTE connection. The GMC AppShop will allow drivers to download news, weather, travel, music and vehicle data apps.
More than 50 accessories such as bedliners and splash guards will allow personalization.
“We think it’s going to be a great knockout in the marketplace here, everything from great styling to performance and capability,” Luke said.