GM Talks New Global Chevy Truck and Compact Van; Should They Come to the U.S.?

As you read this, General Motors has inched closer to kicking off production of its new, still-unnamed Chevrolet midsize pickup truck to be built in Thailand for GM's global markets. The General expects at least 100,000 trucks to be sold, primarily in Brazil, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

In a phone interview with Automotive News, GM's Southeast Asian executive director Martin Apfel stated that Brazil and Thailand are "the two centers of gravity for midsize trucks," further highlighting GM's lessening commitment to small trucks here in the U.S. To help it build momentum in the emerging markets, GM has acquired loans backed by Thai banks to assist with expansion of GM's 165-acre Rayong facility in an effort to expand capacity to more than 80,000 vehicles a year. The Rayong facility currently assembles the Chevrolet Aveo and Colorado and produces roughly 40,000 units last year.

"The logical consequence is to build where the customer wants it, as that keeps your costs down," said Apfel.

While the global Colorado replacement will also be exported overseas, it's doubtful it will see U.S. soil. Earlier this week, we reported on GM's patent images of an unidentified Chevrolet truck, which could very well be the future Thailand-built model, despite the listing of Brazil as its primary place of domicile. The status of the U.S.-market Colorado/GMC Canyon remains in limbo as GM has made no official statement about what it plans to do with its long-neglected midsize truck lineup.

On top of the expanding Rayong facility, a new, neighboring diesel engine plant is approaching the final stages of construction. The small diesel engines, which were jointly developed with Italian engine maker VM Motori, will be used in the new Chevrolet trucks as part of GM's ultimate plan to invest $467 million in Thailand.

As GM gets its global trucks in line, reputable word has it a global compact van bearing the Chevy badge will be launching soon. Announced during GM's first annual Global Business Conference yesterday, the small van is likely the Orlando concept we've been seeing and hearing much about, although it appears the U.S. won't be on the receiving end. GM vice chairman Tom Stephens said the van would be available in several global regions, but didn't specify any key locations. A three-row Buick GL8 business van is in the works for China but launch dates were similarly kept on the mum.

Our guess, however, is neither product will arrive in the U.S. market. GM has already stated the Orlando will not be sold in North America, and we've heard from some connected sources that the General isn't likely to return to the North American midsize truck segment in the near future.

Are these the right calls? Would an Orlando or a new midsize pickup work here in the U.S.A.? It's time to play armchair product planner, and send us your thoughts via the comments field below.

Sources: Automotive News (Subscription required) 1, 2

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