The next Chevrolet Colorado will be bigger. Go figure.

Chevrolet Colorado

Those of us driving full-size pickup trucks as a lifestyle statement rather than as a work tool may find a somewhat different range of choices when shopping for our next one.

Chevrolet -- and by extension, General Motors -- appears to be changing its pickup strategy.

On Oct. 10, GM announced that the next generation of its slow-selling Colorado compact pickup will be significantly larger than the current version.

At first blush, making a smaller vehicle larger seems counterintuitive at an automaker whose product strategy is focused on offering a smaller, more fuel-efficient lineup.

But there may be a method to Chevy's madness.

When compared to its key competitors, such as the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, the Colorado just doesn't measure up in public perception or reality.

No matter how much Chevy improved the next generation Colorado, the likelihood of it offering any real threat to Tacoma or Frontier would be next to zero.

In view of this, changing the segment in which Colorado competes makes some sense.

Moreover, because of Colorado's puny sales numbers -- about 24,000 units through the first nine months of 2011 versus more than 78,000 for the Toyota Tacoma -- Chevy has very little to lose by not only making the next generation Colorado bigger but by pushing it upmarket.

Consider the impact more severe government fuel-economy regulations arriving between now and 2025 will have on the mix of vehicles GM will have to sell.

To meet those stricter requirements, Chevrolet, as well as Ford and Chrysler, will almost certainly have to sell fewer full-size pickups.

No doubt Chevy is banking on some of its Silverado customers being siphoned off by a larger, more powerful Colorado.

And as Automotive News product editor Rick Kranz posed recently, to help customers make that move to the larger Colorado, Chevy could simply make some key luxury features, such as leather seating and high-end navigation units, exclusive to Colorado.

Just one quick look at the Colorado concept truck GM has built (see above) lends credence to the idea that it's planning to turn this into an upscale family hauler, not a work truck.

Reducing the available content in the Silverado would, in effect, categorize it as more of a work truck, significantly reducing its appeal to lifestyle customers.

Before 1980, full-size pickups were purchased in much smaller numbers and driven primarily by farmers, ranchers and construction workers.

If the larger Colorado is successful, the days of moms and stockbrokers tooling around in $45,000 full-size pickups could be drawing to a close.

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