By on March 23, 2011

Reflecting on the recently-previewed Chevy Colorado Concept, Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Krantz notes

During an interview this year at the Detroit auto show, Jamie Hresko, then vice president of GM global powertrain engineering, strongly suggested the automaker was exploring a new mid-sized pickup. He resigned in late February to pursue other opportunities.

To meet proposed higher U.S. fuel economy and lower emissions standards, automakers that sell in the United States eventually will need to develop a leaner range of pickups, Hresko said.

At some point, especially with the likelihood of higher gasoline prices down the road, a smaller, lighter-weight pickup is inevitable…

But just because something is inevitable doesn’t mean GM is going to lead on it. And, as Krantz reveals, the departed powertrain boss never said anything about specific plans.

As you look around the industry, Hresko said, “what you have seen is a massive shift to smaller, more efficient [vehicles], so I think it applies to every segment,” including pickups.

An increase in energy costs is “inevitable with the expansions in China and other regions. Logic would say prices will go up” and some pickup buyers will be looking for a more fuel efficient alternative, he said.

“My point is the general population will eventually walk there. I do believe that. I am not sure what the marketers think. To me it is logical,” Hresko said.

OK, so Hresko is only hinting at a front-drive pickup in the most vague terms possible… and he’s no longer at GM. Even by our wild-ass standards, this is one wild-ass rumor. Still, it’s been a long time since any auto exec has even entertained the possibility of a front-drive pickup, most surviving examples of which are headed to the crusher. Besides, when GM already builds a rear-drive “ute” pickup based on the Holden Commodore chassis that gets 27 MPG (non-EPA), why go front-drive at all? One thing is for certain: with CAFE increases coming, GM can’t afford to do nothing about its truck lineup.
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37 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: GM Considering Front-Drive Pickup?...”


  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    “Smaller & lightweight” isn’t the same as “FWD”.

    GM can take the first steps of converting the Terrain & Granite to unibody pickups for lighter duty work like the Ridgeline.

    If that isn’t enough, GM can resurrect the Elkie as a smaller, lighter pickup. And bring back the Chevy Nomad, while they’re at it.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The Ridgeline – good old Honda – interesting concept with potential but then hit with Honda corporate’s ugly stick.  The Ridgeline’s big drawback at the moment is its very average fuel mileage – gets similar mileage with BOF v8 powered trucks.
       
      The real winner will be who can bring a high efficiency small turbo diesel engine and put it in a compact truck.  Mahindra maybe first to market but its diesel mileage seems terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      As a former Ridgeline owner, I’ll chime in here. I was initially somewhat leery of buying a (primarily) FWD truck, but since we didn’t tow regularly and our hauling was more or less limited to 5-6 mountain bikes on a weekly basis, I pulled the trigger. It was not an exceptionally small or lightweight vehicle, and yes the gas mileage was underwhelming. I was constantly asked “How do you like it?” to which my reply was, “It’s well packaged, imminently practical, extremely ugly and has the power of a V6 with the fuel economy of a V8.”
      Saw more men in their 50′s driving them then any other demographic. My wife even called it the “old man truck”. That said, when we went down to a single income and decided to sell one of the vehicles, I made the wrong choice and sold the Ridgeline….should have sold my troublesome Mazdaspeed6 instead.

    • 0 avatar
      parkwood60

      hate to break it to you, but the Terrain weighs more than some Colorados.  A regular cab 2wd Colorado is 400lbs less than a terrain.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    It would surprise me to see this happen for the midsize truck segment.  FWD trucks that are smaller and get better mileage will probably be in every auto makers line up that competes in this segment in the next 6 to 8 years.

    The problem with the RWD ute is that people in the US don’t want an El Camino. Do we need crossovers in the US? No, wagons are available, but almost no one wants a wagon. Minivans are better people haulers than crossovers too, but they are still frowned upon by a large amount of people as well. Hence, the crossover is king… for now. For the same reasons, almost no one will want the RWD ute.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Steven, not so sure people don’t want an El Camino.  It would be a way for the Camaro RWD muscle car driving experience to live on in a vehicle that qualifies as a “truck” for the EPA.  Women get to veto station wagons in favor of taller vehicles in the family hauler market, but the El Camino looks like more like something a single guy would want.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Most single guys would pick the Camaro, Mustang, something else over an El Camino.  Remember, single guys might want to get a girl, and an El Camino might turn off girls who think that this guy is a redneck or something.
      I think a unibody truck is ok, but it needs to look like a truck.  Something more closely related to a CUV than a car.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Given how trucks like the Avalanche are used for mainly grocery getting and trying to enhance their owners masculine image, it wouldn’t surprise me if GM was working on the Chevy Ridgeline – a uni-body FWD truck for light domestic duty.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Except that all the macho-men already consider the Ridgeline a “ladies’ and homos’” car.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Exactly right. Ridgelines and Tacomas are the butt of jokes from guys driving F-150s and Sierras / Silvies.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      But perhaps GM isn’t going after the F-150 crowd? I would buy a small, FWD pickup in a second. I had a Dodge Dakota and even was too big and thirsty for my needs.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Gotta love those guys who use their trucks for nothing more than what they call a “homo” pickup can do too.  You need that full 1/2 ton with v8 to run to Sam’s club and Home Depot to haul some toilet paper and a mower home.  No other vehicle can do these things but a “real” pickup truck can.  Not even a small economy box with a dainty 2 wheel trailer.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    (Chant it with me) Ute! Ute! Ute! Ute! Gimee a Ute!  (And yea I did enter Pontiac’s stupid contest to name their G8 ute to see if I could win one.  Damn GM.)

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      It is a no freakin’ brainer. Holden Commodore Ute sold as a Chevrolet El Camino.  Offer the 3.0 DI 6-banger as the economical model, a 3.6L model as a combination of more power and not gutting MPG, and a 6.2 LS3 as the SS.

      It is a NO BRAINER.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Dan, you should hear a Maloo on the streets… well most HSVs
       
      I prefer to see the normal SS or SV6 Utes.
       
      And it’s amazing these guys actually use those sweet things to work and haul stuff around

  • avatar
    cvarrick

    Wild-Ass Rumor of the Day: GM Considering Pedal Powered Pickup?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    And you think driving on snow and ice is squirrely with a conventional rwd pickup!

  • avatar

    That vehicle pictured can be had with a 6 or it could be built with a diesel and be capable of real good mpg but FWD nah. Once cafe kicks in properly and gas hits $10 American type pickups will cease production they have no real use. If they did the world would be clamouring to buy instead of pointing and laughing.

  • avatar
    JMII

    They don’t need FWD to build something light and efficient. If anything such a compact truck should be AWD with basis to the front wheels in “eco” mode, then switch to AWD in tow or off-road mode. My only worry with all this compact truck talk is that towing capacity is going to take a major hit, but with modern turbo diesels and multi-speed autos this shouldn’t be the case – unless the unibody frame just can’t handle the extra weight.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Is the Chevy Montana any good? Would the 1.4T and 2.4L SIDI reasonably work in that vehicle?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I would think a Montana would be a great little truck. I could reasonably see me driving one of those. Not everyone wants/needs/has the space for a F150 or even a Ridgeline. My old Dakota has gotten huge in the last revision, not even a contender anymore.
       
      I know VW and Fiat both have small FWD/AWD pickups available in South America. Who wants to bet that one of those two will bring us one of their small FWD pickups? If Fiat wanted to steal a march on everyone else, they’d do it first.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Ummm that HSV Holden Commodore Ute pictured is anything but front-wheel drive.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Allow me to be “FX4_F150″
    *Ahem*
    GM never leads on anything. They learned their lessons on the Corvair, Vega and Colonade Malibus. Never lead. They were late on their Mustang, Navigator and Civic fighters. They sure as heck won’t lead the market on FWD pickups. There’s way too much money to be made on full size pickups. Expect a GM FWD pick-up after the market is already saturated by Ford, Ram, VW and Fiat.

  • avatar
    kincaid

    I worked on several front drive pickup concepts when I worked at GM in the 2000-02 time frame. Wonderful ideas but couldn’t sell anything new to Chev marketing then… probably still cant (that’s why we are still getting Camaros). The interior space of an Avalanche in a package the size of a Malibu. 90+% of the full size gas hog trucks I see on the road are one passenger butt haulers for un-patriotic fuel hogs anyway. The only thing the FWD can’t do better is tow a big trailer. NVH, ride&handling all better than a rubber frame truck. A great idea whose time is long overdue. Ridgeline would have been raving success if Honda hadn’t gotten on drugs in the “styling” department.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I understand your frustration, but what is wrong with the Camaro?  You act like it is a mistake that it is still around.  Iconic names survive for a reason.  Why do you think there are 50 years of Corvettes and 45 of Mustangs.

  • avatar
    parkwood60

    Since the Terrain in FWD is 400lbs heavier than the Colorado in 2WD, I don’t really see how much more efficient basing it on that platform would be.  And the Acadia is even more of a porker.  You build a new Colorado as aerodynamic as the Terrain, and put the smaller motors and 6 speed transmissions in them and they would get the same MPG.  In fact, I just checked and the regular cab gets worse mileage than the Ecotech, but better mileage than a Terrain with a 3.0 V6.
     
    That being said, I had a VW Rabbit truck and I loved it.  But, in order for a truck to carry a useful 1/2 ton payload, including passengers, it really needs to weight close to 3000lbs, otherwise fully loaded the tail will wag the dog.  That Rabbit fully loaded, road like crap, and had no suspension travel left.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      If you had no suspension travel left, you were way beyond “fully loaded” and well into “dangerously overloaded” territory.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I too owned a Rabbit pickup and I loved it. It was just about the right size for my home improvement projects. If the floor wasn’t rusted out of it I would probably still own it today.
       
      The “ute” argument is wearing a bit thin. Equipped the way most people are describing, why not buy a Camaro or whatever RWD sedan Chevrolet is teasing us about. You certainly aren’t buying a truck to use it as a truck. Hard tonneau cover? It’s called a trunk. Geesh.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      You will also find that a Tahoe and Suburban weigh more than a Silverado.  The bed of a truck is pretty light weight.  That would cut off a lot of weight from a Terrain or Acadia.  That would also effect MPG.

  • avatar

    I am in the minority, as I was when I purchased my brand new 2002 Ford Ranger “stripper”, the only option being A/C.  4cyl/5spd, she gets approx 30MPG on the highway.  The Ranger, 15″ wheels notwithstanding (the original had 14″), the Ranger was and is one of the few “small” trucks on the market.  The reality is that it’s not economical to build a separate BOF small truck.  The economical way is to either build a midsized utilizing full sized underpinnings, or a FWD truck utilizing a car platform.
    But something happened on the way to the “dance.”  See, Honda had a great idea, but then the pesky customer started saying “well, I need to tow 5000lbs” and “I need to take the family” and the next thing you know, you don’t have a small truck anymore.  You have a Ridgeline, which has the worst of both worlds IE too much car to be a truck and too much truck to be economical.
    What Ford and GM ought to do, as should Honda and the rest, is take a page from Volkswagen and Dodge, their FWD pickups of the 80′s.  They suck at towing, they suck at hauling more than two people, but you know what?  For hauling a washing machine from Lowes, some trash to the landfill, or for commuting, they are absolutely perfect.  My Ranger is woefully helpless in wintertime, and handles like a mid 70′s F-150.
    Oh, but they won’t sell.  Well, read the papers, folks.  Small trucks don’t sell anyway, and for the 15,000-20,000 a year you’d sell, it would cost close to nothing to put a small 2 passenger truck on a CR-V, Equinox, or Escape chassis.  And you could drive it in wintertime!!

  • avatar
    skor

    Ford announced today that they will put this small unibody compact pickup into production for the 2012 model year.
     
    http://image.customclassictrucks.com/f/9164519+w750+st0/cctp_0510_04_z+1965_ford_ranchero+photo.jpg
     
     

  • avatar
    TR4

    The first self-propelled vehicle according to some, the 1769 Cugnot, was arguably a front-wheel-drive truck.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Sounds good to me. The full sizers, and increasingly even the medium sizers, have uncomfortably high load floors. Getting rid of the rear diff and axle, ought to be of at least some help in that regard. If they leave the truck a BOF, it ought to be dirt cheap as well, with very little fancyness required even for a reasonable length bed. Perhaps have as an option some electric hub motors out back, and enough battery for “get me out of a bind” duty….

  • avatar

    Oh, c’mon. We don’t need FWD to make a compact truck.
     
    Ford-Take Mustang platform. Shorten wheelbase or keep the same. Reduce hood length for four cyl/six cyl rather than six cyl/eight cyl duty. Keep live rear axle. Increase headroom (heighten cabin space). Raise suspension 1″-2″. Replace backseat and trunk with pickup bed. Name “Ford Ranger”, “Ford Courier” or “Ford Ranchero.” You have an excellent compact truck platform in the Mustang, Ford, it just happens to be being used in a ponycar rather than a useful little pickup.
     
    Chevy: Do what Ford should do, only do it with the Camaro.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Besides, when GM already builds a rear-drive “ute” pickup based on the Holden Commodore chassis that gets 27 MPG (non-EPA), why go front-drive at all? One thing is for certain: with CAFE increases coming, GM can’t afford to do nothing about its truck lineup.

    Going front-drive makes sense, but you need to redefine what you’re calling a pickup.  The Zeta platform is huge and heavy, as are the unibody platforms that comprise most crossovers.  There’s not much of a win there.

    Now, a trucklet based on the Sonic or Fiesta, or even an open-bed Transit Connect, that’s another story.  Whether or not such a thing would make sense (or if notoriously macho North American truck buyer would support it) is unknown and unlikely.  Recall that North American truck buyers scoffed at the Ridgeline and the Baja; I doubt they’d take such a think seriously unless their backs were up against the wall.

    Gas would have to be astronomically expensive for it to make sense.


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