Interview with Mike Weidman,
Editor’s Note: Mike Weidman was recently named brand manager for the Chevrolet Colorado, coming over from the Suburban/Tahoe line of Chevy trucks. He joins the Colorado team at the time when the Chevy will be competing against a trio of new pickups—Dakota, Frontier and Tacoma—coming out in the fall of 2004. PUTC editor Mike Magda interviewed Mr. Weidman in mid-September 2004 to accompany his review of the Colorado Crew Cab LS.
Magda: Year-to-date sales (Jan-August 2004) of the new Colorado are 72,700 while sales of the S-10 for the same period in 2003 were 106,699. How would you characterize Colorado sales in its first year?
Weidman: First, you have to look at the fact that the whole segment is down.
Magda: Let me interrupt. GM and Ford are down. The other three companies (Dodge, Nissan and Toyota) are either up or holding steady.
Weidman: There are some things that have kept us from doing the things we want to do out there. We missed the boat in terms of setting our capacities with respect to crew cabs and 4-wheel-drive. We’ve had a real heavy increase for both this year. We’ve actually increased crew cab capacity twice this year, and we’re getting ready to increase 4WD capacity in the next few weeks. If you look at the shift in demand for the midsize pickup market, all are going larger. We’re getting more crews out there. We’re doing things to take advantage of where the segment’s going. We see it going in two different arenas. Part of it going upward; getting larger and more powerful. Then you have part that’s more price oriented.
Magda: And you’re taking Colorado where?
Weidman: We’re looking at taking it both ends. We’re increasing crew cab and 4WD capacity to compete more effectively on the upper end. I can’t go into it but we’re doing some things to be more competitive in the lower end of the segment. You don’t want Ford to be playing all by themselves down there.
Magda: You had 22 years of equity built into S-10 brand. Why change the name with the 3rd generation truck?
Weidman: I wasn’t working on the product when the name change transpired. What I found out talking to folks who were is that they really wanted to emphasize that this was an all-new truck. That it wasn’t just a redo or an evolution of the old product, that it was revolutionary in terms of an all new pickup. From everything that we tested, the name Colorado really resonated very well. It brought about images of big, wide open spaces, mountains, tough, rugged; it’s easily associated with Chevrolet and had a strong domestic feel to it, which is the essence you want to capture with a pickup.
Magda: The next subject has been brought up in chat rooms and forums: lowering the tow rating. I understand your strategy, but I haven’t seen the effort from GM to convince the shopper that the lower tow rating is worth extra ride comfort. Can you respond?
Weidman: When you look at reasons for purchase within this segment, tow rating is way, way down the list. They’re looking for a good value, exterior styling and they want a dependable vehicle. The whole power story and towing capacity issue doesn’t resonate nearly as strong as you think it would. They’re towing smaller things like jet skis. The fact that this is their primary vehicle for getting around makes the ride comfort aspect very important.
Magda: What about your marketing efforts to convince shoppers that a 5-cylinder engine is as good as a 6-cylinder?
Weidman: At the time we designed the I5 and we went to market, it had as much or more power than any V6 yet still delivered the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder. Given that value and fuel economy really rank strong with midsize buyer, it’s one of the primary reasons we ended up with the I5. When you look at what is important to the consumer within this segment, power, like I mentioned before, isn’t way up there. We think we’re offering enough power with the I5 to meet consumers’ needs.
Magda: As marketers, though, getting that message out and convincing the public is a quite a chore.
Weidman: I agree that is a challenge but if that’s the biggest challenge we have to face I’d be very happy with that.
Magda: Is the Colorado Cruz any indication of what might come down the road?
Weidman: No I don’t think so. Cruz was a one-off fun element that we did for the Woodward Dream Cruise. That’s more of a calling card for the capabilities for our designers than a preview of an auto show or concept vehicle.
Magda: What about the possibility of a vehicle more extreme than Colorado Xtreme, like a turbocharged I5?
Weidman: I think when you look at the tuner type vehicles in this segment, you have to be prudent about the decisions you make, given the size of that portion of the segment. We know what our old Xtreme package has done 10-to15-thousand in sales. That’s way we came with this Xtreme package. We think it’ll be enough to get us those 10-to-15-thousand units without having to invest huge amounts of capital in powertrain expenditures
Magda: Closing points?
Weidman: I think the breadth of product that we offer on Colorado is really a big positive for us. Everything from low price regular cab models up through our Z71 4-wheel-drive crew cab, which has done very well for us. That’s been by far our best seller. Then we come with the Xtreme off the ZQ8 package, which we offer across all three models. If you’re in the midsize market, we have something to offer almost everyone out there.