DETROIT - GM has reimagined its small pickup truck to cater to outdoorsy folks who haul smelly wet dogs and kayaks. In other words, Subaru buyers.
The new Chevrolet Colorado, to be unveiled Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, has little in common with the old version, which was noisy with a cheap-looking hard plastic interior that didn't appeal to many buyers.
The 2015 model weighs 900 pounds less and is 16 inches shorter than its brawny cousin, the full-size Chevy Silverado. And it's equipped with bike racks and other accessories that GM hopes will lure Subaru customers - relatively affluent people that GM calls "lifestyle" buyers.
AUTO SHOW HIGHLIGHT — The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
-- Associated Press
To do so, GM knows it must make in-roads in California, Colorado, New York and other places where such buyers are abundant.
Subaru's sales, led by the Forester small SUV, have grown more than 61 percent in the past two years. Subaru doesn't sell a pickup, but its all-wheel-drive hatchbacks are popular with people who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly on the coasts.
GM wants to replicate that success with a U.S. brand.
"If there was a brand, a domestic brand, that could fill that space and really provide those types of things, we thought Chevy was a good place to do it," said Alan Batey, global Chevrolet chief, at a preview of the Colorado last week in Detroit where he spoke while standing beneath giant posters of people surfing, skiing and bicycling.
The Colorado, and its GMC sister, the Canyon, also will be aimed at another market: workers who need trucks, but not as big as the Silverado or the GMC Sierra. The smaller trucks, Batey said, do more than look good.
"We didn't want to just create a really pretty truck that's accessorized but can't do anything," he said.
In the late 1990s, the small-truck market in the U.S. was over a million vehicles, but as automakers like Ford and GM pulled out, it dwindled to less than 300,000 annually.
GM stopped making the old Colorado last year. In the past four years, sales never topped 39,000 nationwide.
The new version is due out next fall. It takes aim at the Toyota Tacoma, the most popular small truck in the U.S. with sales of over 141,000 in 2012.
Here are highlights of the Colorado:
r INSIDE: Touch-screen and multiple USB ports for iPods, phones and other devices. Still has knobs and big buttons for climate controls. Six standard air bags, standard rear-vision camera. Interior with far less hard plastic than the old Colorado.
r OUTSIDE: Rounded fenders, wheels and tires pushed wide for athletic stance. Low-slung windshield for aerodynamics and sportier looks. Door panels fit into roof line. Step built into rear bumper for easy climbing into bed. Cross members for racks that bolt into bed. Rack options for bicycles, kayaks, skis, etc. Cargo can be stowed beneath the racks.
r UNDER THE HOOD: Two aluminum-block engines in first year, a 193-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 3.6-liter V6 with an estimated 302 horsepower. In second year, a diesel engine will be available. Six-speed automatic transmissions; two- or four-wheel drive.
r GAS MILEAGE: Not released. Jeff Luke, chief truck engineer, says GM is expecting best-in-class mileage with the four-cylinder engine. A four-cylinder, manual transmission Toyota Tacoma gets up to 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
r CHEERS: Trucks look rugged and have great convenience features for people who want to haul bikes or kayaks. GM promises they'll be capable of towing and hauling heavy payloads.
r JEERS: GM has to pay for the capital cost of developing the new trucks. That could mean prices close to competitors' larger trucks. Pricing announced later. Also, trucks will be available only in versions with back seats. That could add to price.
Other highlights of the L.A. Auto Sho include:
BMW 4 SERIES CONVERTIBLE
BMW adds a convertible to its 4 Series line of two-door coupes, which debuted over the summer. The 4 Series replaced the 3 Series coupe; BMW is now reserving the 3 Series name for four-door sedans. The convertible, which goes on sale in the U.S. early next year, has a three-piece retractable hardtop that can be automatically lowered in 20 seconds at low speeds. To keep away the chill, the car has optional neck warmers in the driver and passenger seats. As in the 4 Series coupe, there are two engine choices: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower in the 428i and a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder with 300 horsepower in the 435i. Both have an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 428i is offered as a rear-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive, while the 435i is only offered as a rear-wheel-drive. The 428i starts at $49,675, around $8,000 more than the starting price of the coupe. The 435i starts at $55,825.
Porsche is entering the fast-growing small SUV market with the Macan. The Macan - the name comes from the Indonesian word for "tiger" - is six inches shorter than its sibling, the Cayenne SUV, but features the same muscular look. It also uses some tricks to look more substantial, like a broad, wraparound hood that encompasses the headlights. Porsche designed two versions: The Macan S, with a new, 3.0-liter V6 engine that gets 340 horsepower and the Macan Turbo, with a new 3.6-liter V6 that gets 400 horsepower. Standard features include an off-road mode, which adjusts the torque, shifter and other functions for off-roading at the touch of a button. There's an optional air suspension chassis, which can set the vehicle's ground clearance at three different levels. Porsche says the feature is unique to the Macan among small SUVs. The Macan goes on sale this spring at a starting price of $50,895 for the Macan S and $73,295 for the Macan Turbo. Sales of small luxury SUVs are up 25 percent so far this year, making them the fastest-growing segment in the luxury market.
FORD EDGE CONCEPT
Ford says its Edge concept vehicle previews the design direction and technology of the company's future SUVs. The lines on the concept are sharper and more angled than the current Edge, and it adopts the trapezoidal grille shape and narrow headlights of Ford's newer products. Advanced safety features include an automated parking system that can find and park in a perpendicular space. The system can even be activated remotely, pulling the car out of a tight spot before the driver gets in. The Edge concept also will automatically steer away from obstacles and brake to avoid a collision. The Edge mid-size SUV has recently been overshadowed by Ford's newer SUVs, including the small Escape and larger Explorer. This will be the Edge's first full redesign since it was introduced in 2007. The new Edge will also target a global audience - it will be sold in Europe, China and South America for the first time. Ford isn't yet saying when the new Edge will go on sale, but it's likely to arrive sometime next year.
JAGUAR F-TYPE COUPE
The F-Type convertible, which went on sale in the spring, was Jaguar's first two-seat sports car in 50 years. Now the company's adding a hardtop version. The 2015 F-Type coupe, which goes on sale this spring, starts at $65,000, or $4,000 less than the convertible. The base model of the all-aluminum coupe - made, in part, from recycled metal - has a 340-horsepower V6 engine and a top speed of 161 mph. For $77,000, buyers can upgrade to a V6 with 380 horsepower and a top speed of 171 mph. At the top of the lineup is the $99,000 F-Type R, which has a 550-horsepower V8 engine and goes from zero to 60 mph in four seconds. It has a top speed of 186 mph. All versions have an eight-speed transmission and a hidden rear spoiler that automatically rises at 70 mph and tucks back in at 50 mph or less. Jaguar's U.S. sales are up 36 percent so far this year, thanks to the F-Type convertible and the recently redesigned XF sedan.
The Vision Gran Turismo super sports car, with its wild and fluid lines and extreme proportions, will draw viewers to Mercedes' stand at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Gran Turismo is pure fantasy, designed for the PlayStation racing game Gran Turismo 6. The virtual model (a scale model of the show car, complete with Mercedes' signature gull-wing doors) will be available for download next month. While a car like this won't ever be produced, look for some of the design elements - like the LED lights that replace louvers on the grille - on future super sports cars. The GLA45 AMG concept, a small SUV from Mercedes' AMG performance division, is closer to reality. Like Porsche and Lincoln, Mercedes is entering the fast-growing, compact luxury SUV market with its upcoming GLA series. The GLA45 concept has a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 355 horsepower. No word on when it will hit the market.
Volkswagen announced that its first fully electric car, the e-Golf, will go on sale in the U.S. at the end of 2014. The e-Golf is based on the seventh-generation gasoline-powered Golf, which is headed to the U.S. this spring. VW says the new Golf was designed from the outset to house either a gas engine or an electric motor and battery. The e-Golf, which will be a five-door hatchback, has a 115-horsepower electric motor and a 264-cell lithium-ion battery that's tucked into the frame beneath the front and rear passenger seats. Both the motor and the battery were developed by Volkswagen in Germany. Volkswagen says the car can go 70 to 90 miles on a charge, depending in part on which of three modes (normal, eco or eco-plus) the driver selects. Among its energy saving features are a special pump that uses heat from the driving components - instead of the battery - to warm the cabin and Volkswagen's first standard LED headlights. VW says the e-Golf will be sold, at first, in states that have adopted zero-emission vehicle targets, including California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon and Maryland. Pricing hasn't been announced.