Trucks at Work

Light truck perspective from a legend

So I got to meet one of my idols in the writing business the other day – Warren Brown, the automotive columnist for the Washington Post newspaper.

[Brown is on the left and I'm on the right in the photo at left.]

I’ve been reading his work for decades largely because he appreciates the utility of pickup trucks large and small – which is not always the case among automotive reporters – and is never gun shy about calling things as he sees it.

[For example, check out this post from 12 years ago, where I quoted Brown’s observations about the rising cost of light truck prices.]

Thus I couldn’t resist a chance to pick his brain about light truck trends during General Motor’s recent ride and drive event in Del Mar, CA, to herald the official rebirth of its midsize GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado pickups.

Brown told me those trucks are really going to matter most to a large swath of small business owners – landscapers, contractors, plumbers, etc. – who live and work in crowded urban and suburban locales.

Those are the folks that don’t need up to 2,000 lbs. of payload capacity or 11,000-plus lbs. of towing capability like what you get with a full-size and tow-packaged-spec’d 2014 GMC Sierra pickup.

Rather, they need something small, able to maneuver in tight spaces and navigate crowded streets; something with excellent fuel economy that can haul a bunch not-to-overly heavy stuff. Because a vehicle like that lowers their cost to operate and thus can help make the services they offer more competitive.

Brown comes by his observations the old fashioned way, too: talking with said landscapers and contractors during the wee hours of the morning while getting his coffee (and they theirs) at the local 7-11 or equivalent.

That’s why to my mind at least such plain old on-the-ground research often reveals what the true trends are, and I think Brown nailed this one pretty firmly.

Indeed, by way of confirmation of sorts, GM recently said that it’s adding a third shift to its Wentzville Assembly plant – worth an extra 750 new jobs or so – because its dealers placed orders for 30,000 Colorado midsize pickup models alone; well exceeding the OEM’s initial projections.

“And this is well before we’ve even begun to crank up the marketing machine for our new midsize trucks,” Sandor Piszor, director of Chevrolet marketing, told me at the aforementioned ride and drive this week. “It shows to us that there’s a huge untapped opportunity to bring back the midsize segment.”

It’s also evidence that the light truck perspective offered by one of the writing titans covering the automotive industry is still razor sharp and on point.

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