In case you’ve been pulling a Rip van Winkle for the past decade, you know that sedans, once the foundation of new-vehicle sales, are decidedly becoming just another market niche. People today want to buy crossovers, hybrids, and SUVs. And, of course, pickups, of all sizes, which are adapting to market realities dictating better fuel economy through things like smaller engines with cylinder deactivation, the extensive use of aluminum, and more. But right now, this is all looking like an irreversible trend rather than just another market cycle. Consider what General Motors just announced. It’s going to sink $1.5 billion to bring its newest generation of full-size pickups into the showroom, a billion of which will be earmarked to upgrade its assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri – the onetime hometown of Chuck Berry – to produce its next generation of midsize pickups that will succeed today’s versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.
While it hasn’t yet released any details on the forthcoming midsize trucks, GM is undoubtedly facing a more crowded playing field that includes the reconstituted Ford Ranger and the new Jeep Gladiator, plus a whole range of foreign-badged competitors. Consider this: Since it reintroduced the Colorado and Canyon in 2013, GM has sold more than 700,000 midsize haulers in the United States alone. Wentzville currently builds both those pickups, along with the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans. First opened in 1983, Wentzville Assembly now employs more than 4,300 hourly and salaried autoworkers.