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GM Thailand Unhitches Colorado From Workhorse Image

Executive Summary

The new Colorado has been refined with an eye toward new consumer demographics. That follows the direction of where the ASEAN truck market is heading: the premium end of the segment, with its higher margins.

BANGKOK – The new Chevrolet Colorado launched last week by GM Thailand is pointed unmistakably upmarket.

During its recent unveiling in Bangkok the central message was that the new Colorado retains all its tough and dependable workhorse attributes, but it also has been significantly refined with an eye toward reaching out to new consumer demographics.

That follows the pattern of where the ASEAN truck market is headed. The premium end of the segment, with its higher margins, is expanding quickly.

The automaker has slimmed down its model portfolio and needs the new Colorado to drive market-share growth, because the pickup now accounts for 70% of sales.

Chevrolet sold 3,042 Colorados in Thailand in the first quarter, good for only sixth place in the country’s pickup segment but a 36.5% year-on-year improvement in a market where most of its rivals offer fresher models.

The facelifted model features a new hood and grille, a strongly profiled bumper, headlights with LED daytime running lights and new 18-in. wheels, resulting in a more aggressive-looking front end in a market typified by the recently facelifted Ford Ranger.

The 2.8L Duramax has been ditched in favor of a 2.5L mill dubbed the VGT (variable-geometry-turbocharged) Duramax, although the 2.8L will go in the new ʼ17 model for certain export markets. The smaller engine achieves improved power (180 hp) and torque (325 lb.-ft. [440 Nm]). Fuel economy hasn’t been revealed yet but is expected to be better than the new Colorado’s predecessor.

Marcos Purty, managing director-GM Thailand and Chevrolet Sales Thailand, says the brand has no plans to introduce a smaller engine.

“We’re not doing the 2.8L so as we are going into the new product we will only have the 2.5L,” he says. “But it’s a VGT and with this 2.5L we have a tremendous amount of horsepower in it. The 2.5L VGT is actually a new engine versus the current 2.5L, but we’re going to stay with the 2.5L.ˮ

Targeting NVH

Curbing noise, vibration and harshness was a key objective for the new model and Chevrolet addresses that issue with sound deadeners around the injectors and new engine mounts. The chassis offers increased rigidity and new cabin mounts, as well as a new type of brake disc, also curtail NVH.

Further NVH improvements come with better door fitment; improved door, windshield and side-window seals; better sealing of the door mirror bases; tweaks to the roof moldings; thicker door glass; and other efficiencies Chevrolet reckons make the new version 8% quieter. The new hood, headlights and front air dam, along with new wheel deflectors and side running boards, improve aerodynamic performance 12%.

Another key improvement is electrically operated power steering, which Chevrolet says will mean better handling, comfort and fuel efficiency.

Active and passive safety features are plentiful, as is driver-assistance technology.

The cabin has been upgraded with a revised dash that gives a more-upmarket feel as well as the use of new seat materials. The new Colorado becomes the first truck in Thailand to get Apple CarPlay and Siri Eyes Free. Remote engine start is another first for the truck segment.

The launch comes several months ahead of the Colorado’s debut in showrooms. GM Thailand does not offer details about pricing.

The early launch seems to be partly due to global rollout pressures.

“In Brazil they have launched their (Colorado) as well, so we always think it’s good not to leave the public or customers in suspense,” he says. “We want to make sure we share with them in the beginning, so we have an alignment with our global partners, but there’s never a clean cutˮ from one model to the other.

‟Weʼre trying to share with the media and current customers that it’s here. We want to be transparent and we have shared every detail of the truck.”

“We are taking pre-orders, so right now customers are already submitting their names,ˮ Purty says. ‟We have customersʼ names and information and we will follow up with them on specific requests. They don’t have to leave a deposit today, as it wouldn’t be fair as we haven’t announced a price.ˮ

With the showroom arrival still undetermined Chevrolet isn’t talking about exports yet, but Purty confirms changes are unlikely.

Putting a Premium on Premium

Chevrolet moved into the fast-growing premium segment with the High Country version, and its success prompted the quick addition of the range-topping Storm derivative featuring dramatic exterior graphics, new and more refined finishes in the cab as well as improvements such as a rear camera.

“High Country was introduced first,” Purty says. “It gave us a really nice entry into a segment we hadn’t been in before. We got a lot of good responses from people who might not want to go off-road but it’s more of a lifestyle vehicle for them.ˮ Chevrolet also has had a good response from people who want to accessorize the trucks, he adds.

“When we started getting feedback that people loved the High Country but wanted to add a sport element into it, that’s when the Storm came into play,” Purty continues. “Storm was a couple of months later as there was customer feedback and we said, ‘Hey, we can do that.’ So it has played well as it’s given us a conversation with a new segment of customer. We are aiming to penetrate more into that segment.”

Grabbing the most attention at the launch is a visually striking, highly customized version that demonstrates GM Thailand is plunging into accessories in a market where demand for customization is strong. Other truck makers, such as Toyota with its popular TRD Sportivo package, leverage this, and for a brand like Chevrolet that has been slow to exploit opportunities here, this is a welcome strategy.

That customization drive builds off the Colorado Extreme show truck presented at last month’s Bangkok auto show which previewed the Colorado facelift wrapped up in an extreme off-road package.

While Chevrolet is not offering the highly customized version as a complete trim level unit to give the Colorado a halo model, the options likely will be individually popular.

As well as the new Colorado, during last month’s Bangkok show the Chevrolet Trailblazer facelift was previewed in a production-ready specification and it likely will arrive in Thai showrooms within the next few months.

Pricing is still to be announced. If Chevrolet can price the new Colorado competitively, then it appears to have all the ingredients to help the brand build its image and grow its market share in Thailand. But the automaker will have to resist raising prices too high and turning away customers in a highly competitive segment.

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