GM Has a Compact, Unibody Pickup in the Works and We’re Worried
It may never arrive Statesideby Michael Fira, on
The Chevrolet Montana is getting replaced by a bigger, more practical compact truck that will sit on the Global Emerging Markets (GEM) platform and also share elements with the next-generation Tracker. It will be a direct competitor to the Fiat Toro and the Renault Duster Oroch in South America, but we may never see it sold in the United States.
There seems to be growing interest in compact, crossover-based, trucks, at least in Latin America where the Montana has been on sale since 2003. Its, as-of-yet unnamed, replacement will be on sale by 2020 and will follow suit on a trend kick-started by Renault and Fiat, among others. Both now offer four-door pick-up trucks and Chevrolet’s new unibody offering will boast the same number of doors. Is this a niche worth exploiting on the North-American market? We don’t know, and it’s also unlikely for GM to sell a GEM-based car here.
The New Compact Truck from Chevy is a Sign That the Niche is Expanding
GM Authority reported, basing its claims on information from "sources familiar with the project," that GM is working on another model that will be underpinned by the GEM platform. It will be a replacement for the old single cabin Montana that’s already almost nine years into its second generation model.
The new truck won't be based on a hatchback - the Montana is a relative of the Chevy Agile - but on the Tracker compact crossover SUV which will evolve into a model of its own, separate from the Chevrolet Trax.
First things first: what’s GEM? Well, it’s a new platform developed by the automotive giant to host a number of models conceived for emerging markets, hence its name. It’s the result of a $5 billion investment, and it will be at the core of vehicles on sale in South America and China, among other markets. “This new vehicle family will feature advanced customer-facing technologies focused on connectivity, safety, and fuel efficiency, delivered at a compelling value,” said Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president for global product development, quoted by GM Authority.
Maybe the first car to feature this platform is the new-for-2018 Buick Excelle that was initially thought to be just an Opel Astra Sedan derivative for the Chinese market. The new compact truck from Chevy will be joined on the market by a number of other GEM models such as the next-generation Chevrolet Onix and Sail. The truck will sit on a lengthened version of the new Tracker’s chassis.
The truck is being developed by GM Brazil, a clear hint that the car might never be sold in China as GEM-based cars that are meant for the Chinese market are co-developed by a team of local engineers and designers along with engineers and designers from other GM departments.
Once ready, it will be built at the Sao Caetano do Sul plant in Brazil with the drivetrain arriving from Argentina.
We don’t know too much about the specifications of the new model although finding the engine from the current Chevrolet Cruze under the hood of the four-door compact truck would hardly be a surprise. That unit, the 1.4-liter four-pot LE2 that develops 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque will probably be mated to an automatic transmission although a manual isn’t out of the question.
It may seem like an interesting offering for many small business owners, but we’re worried it will never ever taste the American tarmac. After all, the Montana has been around for a decade and a half, and it’s never been seen in North-America. Even if there could be a market for the new truck here, don’t hold your breath for Chevy to change their minds. There also isn’t any sign of the Fiat Toro here or the Renault Duster Oroch in the U.S., so it makes sense in some way.
Talking about the Fiat and Renault rivals, they’re quite similar cars. The Fiat is larger with a 6-inch-longer wheelbase than the Renault and 8.6 inches more in total length, but this doesn’t mean the Oroch isn’t practical. It has a bed size that’s 46.25 inches wide and 53.14 inches long for a total cargo space of 24.1 cubic feet.
Those should be the target figures for the new GM truck which, if priced competitively (the Oroch costs no more than $18,270 in Brazil), could sell well. For reference, Fiat has shipped 100,000 Jeep Compass-based Toros between 2016 and 2018 although the model is vastly more expensive than the Oroch with a price range between $19,200 and $29,200 in Brazil.
Read our full review on the 2011 Chevrolet Montana.
Read our full review on the 2017 Fiat Toro.
Source: GM Authority