LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- Ford (F) built the compact Ranger pickup truck for 30 years but abandoned the effort in 2011 because it perceived that most buyers would be just as happy with an F-150 or a crossover.
Then again, it's not as if a lot of Ranger buyers existed back then. Sales had fallen to around 55,000 units in 2010, an 83% decline in just 10 years. And that's where GM (GM) sees an opportunity.
Ranger "probably peaked in the mid-1990s," said Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell. "The segment did fairly well at its peak -- the domestics all had entries. But prices rose, and people decided that if they were going to pay that much, they might just as well buy a full-sized truck. And Ford needed to concentrate on other vehicles, like compact cars."
According to IHS Automotive's Polk, compact pickups accounted for 1.5% of the market in the first 10 months of 2013, down from 8% in 1991. Meanwhile, full-size pickups accounted for 12.3% of the market this year, up from 8.6% in 1991. Of the 205,128 compact/mid-size pickup truck sales during the first 10 months, Toyota (TM) Tacoma had 66% and Nissan Frontier had 28%, according to Kelley Blue Book.
GM unveiled its 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, in what is widely viewed as the show's most important vehicle introduction.
Why a mid-size truck? "What a lot of people are missing is that when they look at the declining sales, they see a shrinking segment," said Tony Johnson, Colorado marketing manager. "But the buyers are still there. They just don't have a valid entry. The segment has two vehicles, and it's been 10 years since (either) had a significant refresh. Why would a customer go to this segment?"