Chevrolet’s planned mini pickup truck will compete with Ford’s, but not in the U.S.


2019 Chevrolet Montana

Chevrolet is reportedly planning a new compact pickup truck that will slot below the Colorado and make a perfect rival for Ford’s much-discussed Focus-based pickup. But the upcoming Chevy, which is rumored to be slated for a 2020 launch, seems aimed more at international markets than the United States.

According to GM Authority, the new truck will replace the aging Chevrolet Montana (pictured above), which is sold primarily in Latin American countries. While they’ve disappeared from the U.S., compact pickup trucks are still popular in these countries. In addition to Ford, the new Chevy will compete against pint-sized haulers like the Fiat Toro and Renault Oroch.

Like Ford’s new truck based on the Focus, both the Fiat and Renault use car-like unibody platforms. Chevy is expected to follow its rivals’ lead, reportedly employing General Motors’ Global Emerging Markets (GEM) platform, which is used for an assortment of small cars sold in foreign markets.

Unibody platforms, in which the body shell acts as the vehicle’s chassis rather than a separate frame, provide increased rigidity. That pays dividends in areas like crash protection, handling, and overhaul refinement. That’s why unibody designs became the norm for cars decades ago, and why unibody crossovers now outnumber traditional body-on-frame SUVs. But the design is less common in trucks: the only unibody pickup currently sold in the United States is the Honda Ridgeline.

That’s not the only thing on the alleged spec sheet of the new Chevy compact truck that seems out of step with U.S. tastes. Like the current Montana, the new truck will reportedly be powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing around 150 horsepower. No big V8s, twin-turbocharged V6s, or stump-pulling diesels here.

The unnamed truck (which could keep the Montana name) will basically be a small car with a pickup bed. Such a vehicle has its merits, especially in an age of tightening fuel economy standards. But the Subaru Baja proved that U.S. buyers’ appetite for a modern car-based pickup is limited. Still, if Ford decides to import its Focus-based pickup, it’s likely that Chevy will follow suit just to keep the rivalry going. Trucks are more important than ever to Ford and GM, as both companies are downsizing their sedan lineups to chase profits.

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