The automotive industry has seen a revival of the mid-size pickup truck segment over the past year-and-a-half. It has flourished at a record pace with the reintroduction of an all-new second generation of twin GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado trucks.
To counteract General Motors' move, Toyota redesigned its long-time segment-leading mid-size Toyota Tacoma.
The influx of these revitalized vehicles has changed the landscape of the mid-size truck segment, but questions remain as to whether these car companies can maintain market share in an environment dominated by full-size heavyweights such as the Ford F-Series, Ram Pickup lineup and the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado.
However, while full-size is where pickup truck sales are at (four of the top-selling vehicles in Canada are full-size pickups and account for 92.7 per cent of all truck sales), continued growth is still in the forecast for the mid-size segment.
"Canyon has the No. 1 conquest rate throughout the entire GMC brand, and we're bringing in new consumers from many of our competitors both at the crossover and full-size truck level," said Mike Speranzini, brand director at GMC.
James Hodge, assistant brand manager for Chevrolet trucks in Canada, agrees.
"We saw many consumers move down a size from a bigger truck, because they figured a more compact truck would better suit their needs."
To continue growth and hold market share, GMC and Chevrolet both understand the significance of options for its customer base, and are marketing their trucks as an urban solution with utility in the form of a box.
New for 2016 are turbocharged four-cylinder diesel powertrain options for both the Canyon and Colorado that are clean-diesel certified and can tow up to 7,700 pounds. Chevrolet takes it one step further with the bold and sporty Colorado Z71 Trail Boss and the blacked-out Midnight Edition, both featured on the showroom floor at the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto.
On the other hand, Toyota has taken on more of an off-road approach for its Tacoma, but also understands the need for variant offerings with the release of the Tacoma TRD Pro.
Special variants may assist in the short run, but the mid-size segment only accounts for 7.3 per cent of total pickup sales. With the versatility and fuel economy that full-size trucks offer, the mid-size segment may not have enough ammunition to get back to the 15-per-cent levels of 2010.
"Full-size trucks are moving the game forward rapidly, with huge gains in fuel efficiency, ride and handling," said Timothy Cain, sales analyst at GoodCarBadCar.net. "And while many full-size trucks can be affordably equipped as family vehicles, a crew cab mid-size truck isn't quite roomy enough to fulfill that role for many consumers."
Cain said the arrival of more offerings will assist the segment as a whole, but we won't see a large number of Canadians downsizing. "Full-size trucks have become too good for that."
Speranzini and Hodge share an optimistic approach about the mid-size pickup segment, but they aren't certain where the market will eventually end up. For now, they're looking forward to small growth for 2016 with the addition of exciting variants and production capabilities running at a high level.
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