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GM’s new compact trucks taking the fight to Toyota

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DETROIT – General Motors Co. has chosen to go bumper-to-bumper with Toyota Motor Corp. for what’s left of a compact pickup market Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have abandoned for the fatter profits of more massive trucks.

Ford no longer makes its Ranger for North America, and Chrysler’s Ram brand has shelved plans for a successor to the Dakota.

“I can’t believe it. It’s wild. I’m loving it,” said Mark Reuss, GM North America president, with the excitement of a linebacker who just scooped up a fumble and is end zone-bound.

Unlike full-size trucks, of which Americans will buy about 1.9 million this year, compact pickups are almost a niche market, on pace to sell about 225,000 this year.

Dominating the market is the Toyota Tacoma, which has sold 146,724 through November. “We have this diamond – a 150,000-unit annually pickup truck,” and it sells with zero incentives, said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president.

“The question is whether the segment will continue to be squeezed out by the advances in full-size trucks,” said Reid Bigland, head of Ram trucks. “Or is it a major growth segment?”

GM sees an opportunity. It unveiled a new Chevrolet Colorado last month at the Los Angeles auto show. Sometime in the next year or so it likely will add a ZR2 off-road version. Reuss said there is a lot of opportunity for special editions and accessories.

The GMC Canyon, which has not been revealed yet, looks more like a full-size truck, Reuss said.

Pricing of the small trucks’ top trim levels will overlap with entry-level full-size trucks. But Reuss said the small-truck buyer appreciates its smaller dimensions and driving something almost 1,000 pounds lighter than a Chevy Silverado.

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