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GM Launches Sales of New Global Colorado Midsize Pickup in Thailand

Executive Summary

“We have designed, engineered and manufactured this truck to compete anywhere in the world – it’s the truck we always wanted to build,” says Martin Apfel, president GM Thailand/Southeast Asia.

BANGKOK – Chevrolet’s new-generation Colorado global midsize pickup truck arrives in Thailand showrooms Oct. 17, before a worldwide rollout that will drive it into 60 different markets.

Thailand is the world’s largest midsize-pickup market and the second-largest market for the segment overall after the U.S., which also will get the new Colorado, General Motors announced Monday in conjunction with Chevy’s centennial celebrations.

The latest Chevy pickup recently was presented to the media, dealers and VIPs during a ceremony at the BITEC exhibition center here, and hopes are high it will raise the bar in the midsize-truck segment.

The concept version unveiled here earlier this year had a more aggressive front grill, and feedback was positive. A little of that visual impact has been watered down as production realities and cost-cutting kick in.

The new Colorado gets the “family” front fascia treatment, as seen on models such as the Cruze and Orlando. Visual appeal is critical in the hotly contested pickup segment here, where consumers are attracted by the strong looks of vehicles such as Toyota’s Hilux and Isuzu’s D-Max.

Most other details of the show truck carry over to the production version, including two new Duramax turbodiesel engines, derived from the U.S. market-specific 6.6L V-8 Duramax: 150-hp 2.5L and 180-hp 2.8L, both being built in Thailand.

GM is expecting 70%-75% of sales to come from the 2.5L mill. Both are mated to either a 5-speed manual transmission or the Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic.

The Colorado is General Motors’ largest-ever commitment to Thailand, representing a 15 billion baht ($487 million) investment in its Rayong complex, which includes a new diesel-engine plant.

The move is a clear demonstration of the value the auto maker places on this country, both as a fast-growing consumer market for its products – “We build where we sell,” says Martin Apfel, president GM Thailand/Southeast Asia – and as a pivotal production and export hub.

The Colorado is “a big vehicle for the future of Chevrolet in Thailand,” an upbeat Apfel says at the truck’s launch. It’s “the most clean-sheet midsize truck program” in GM’s history. “We listened to our customers and benchmarked our competitors. We are ready to meet our customers in Southeast Asia and around the world.”

The Colorado arrives at a crucial time; the global midsize-truck landscape could be about to shift, with Chinese OEMs seeking a foothold in the segment and other rivals refreshing their products to meet consumer demand. Ford, for example, is renewing its Ranger midsize pickup.

But GM believes it has put daylight between itself and rivals. “It’s right at the top in terms of refinement,” Apfel says of the Colorado.

A key focus was turning the truck into a smoother, more user-friendly vehicle, reflecting the fact that half of all pickups sold here are for private use. GM sees this as an audience that can be expanded.

Extensive customer research told GM’s development team that consumers see pickups as being “rough and tough,” but they don’t see why that should be, says Brad Merkel, GM global vehicle line executive. “The customer wants pickups to be more like a car – tough and refined.”

There are “no vibrations,” improved stability, “no wind noise” and “no rattles,” he says. “It feels car-like. That’s where we focused our efforts to differentiate ourselves.”

Apfel believes the new Colorado will appeal to those who have never considered a pickup as a means of personal transport before. “It is a true global truck,” he reckons. “We have designed, engineered and manufactured this truck to compete anywhere in the world – it’s the truck we always wanted to build.”

The first-generation Colorado was designed with Isuzu, GM’s Japanese truck-making partner at the time. But the U.S. auto maker is keen to stress the go-it-alone nature of the development of the new model.

“In the beginning phase, we worked with Isuzu using the same requirements, saving engineering resources early in the project,” Merkel says, but “we parted ways. (The new Colorado) is 100% Chevrolet.”

GM considers the new Colorado a “key component” in its pursuit of a 10% market share here, a target it hopes to achieve by 2013. The pickup is the latest step in that strategy, which Apfel calls “a huge product offensive.”

He sees the Thai light-vehicle market hitting 1 million units by 2013, with pickups making up about 40%-45%.

The Chevy Cruze sedan already is pulling its weight against the Toyota Altis and Honda Civic, taking a 10% share of the segment, while the recently refreshed Captiva cross/utility vehicle is performing strongly, grabbing a 50% share of its segment.

Getting Thai buyers to give the new Colorado a look is a challenging task, but one GM executives believe they can achieve. Year-to-date sales for the outgoing model stand at just 10,000 units.

Specifically, Apfel says, perceptions that the Colorado is more expensive to run than its rivals need to be addressed.

Consequently, the new pickup’s first scheduled service interval is at 12,428 miles (20,000 km), while operating costs through 62,140 miles (100,000 km) should be no more than TB20,000 ($650). That’s an industry-leading figure for pickups, says Antonio Zara, GM Thailand vice president-sales, marketing and aftersales.

Chevrolet will increase its Thai dealer network to 120 outlets by the end of 2012, and aftersales will be overhauled. Both are meant to improve the customer experience.

GM isn't announcing a sales target for the Colorado. Apfel says deliveries will be “driven by the customer,” and the auto maker will build “what the customer buys.”

Up to the end of this year, GM expects to manufacture about 12,000 units, but annual production next year likely will be close to 100,000 units. Apfel expects an even split between domestic builds and exports.

The first exports start this month, as the Colorado quickly kicks off its global rollout. Malaysia will be the first stop among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations markets, as GM ambitiously looks to break into the midsize pickup-truck segments. Indonesia and the Philippines also are on tap.

The new Colorado offers seven body colors, with the 2.5L turbodiesel kicking off here at TB537,000 ($17,435) for the single cab (all prices include air-conditioning).

The price rises through three versions of the extended cab – standard, high stance and 4x4 – ranging from TB584,000-TB737,000 ($18,961-$24,000), and three similar versions of the double cab, from TB659,000-TB808,000 ($21,396-$26,234).

Pricing won’t be announced for the 2.8L model until it reaches showrooms, but Apfel promises it will be “attractive.”

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