Unibody pickup trucks seem to have evolved almost overnight from objects of derision and figments of the American imagination to the most closely watched segment in the market. There, the Bronco Sport-based Ford Maverick will face off against the Hyundai Santa Cruz, a relative of the Tucson crossover. Far less known is that GM has a third potential contestant getting ready in the wings: the 2022 Chevrolet Montana.
Formerly a teeny, spartan unibody pickup built for emerging markets, the Montana (also called the Tornado in some countries) is about to get a major generational update that will see it move to a new platform and transform into a potential Maverick fighter—bigger, more feature-packed, and rumored to be styled after Chevy's hot-selling Blazer and Trailblazer crossovers. There are real reasons to think GM might bring it to America this time. Unfortunately, there are also very real reasons why that probably won't happen. Probably.
The third generation of Chevy's unibody Montana pickup was announced in the spring by GM, which confirmed the "unprecedented pickup concept" will be built in Brazil both for domestic sale and export. Strongly suggested to be a crew cab, the new Montana (silhouetted up top) so far has been touted as having larger dimensions, better driving dynamics, and greater efficiency than the previous two-door model, which is pictured above.
According to Brazil's Autos Segredos, these improvements will be achieved by using GM's new Global Emerging Market (or GEM) platform, which it developed in tandem with its Chinese partner SAIC. Vehicles based on this architecture include the Buick Excelle, Encore (not the U.S.'s Encore GX), and a trio of Chevrolets including the Onix, Sail, and Tracker (yes, it still exists). In addition to the Tracker's chassis, the Montana is also reported to inherit the crossover's brakes, suspension, and 1.2-liter, three-cylinder turbo engine though with slightly more power.
This subcompact crew cab is apparently expected to arrive within a year, in the first half of 2022, bearing a face inspired by the hot-selling and spacious Trailblazer. If pricing were to start around that of the Tracker, which in Brazil starts at the equivalent of $18,260, it'd steeply undercut its Ford rival's price of roughly $21,500 and the Hyundai's anticipated $25,000.
But as you've surely been expecting, there's a BUT, and it has to do with where the chassis that makes this Chevy so cheap is made. GM told Reuters it tried to "tariff-proof" GEM vehicles by localizing production as much as possible, which means manufacturing is centered in these models' main markets. The bulk is built in Brazil and China, though Mexico also makes one GEM model, the Chevy Onix.
Because of this, imported Montanas would be subject to 1964's "chicken tax," a massive 25-percent import tariff on light trucks. Mavericks, which are built in Mexico, face no such problem as the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA)—previously NAFTA—exempts light trucks made there from the tariff. Even before accounting for the delivery fees inflated by shipping this Chevy across the world, the miniature Montana would easily come in as expensive if not more so than the larger Maverick.
Hypothetically, GM could circumvent this by building the Maverick alongside the Onix, in Mexico. That however would require costly retooling, which GM could only justify if it were certain GEM vehicles could be federally homologated. So far, GM has only shown only a faint interest in importing GEM vehicles, specifically the Onix, for whose name GM filed a pair of trademark
applications in Q1 2020—both were denied.
The Chevy Montana only has a solid shot of making it to the U.S. if it can compete on price, which would probably require it be made in Mexico. Bringing them in from Brazil would require buyers pay more money for less truck, one that would come with compromised refinement inherent to a developing market vehicle. And to Americans, who tend to splash out for the largest, most comfortable trucks they can buy, or even simply imagine, a truck like the Montana wouldn't be an easy sell.
The Drive reached out to GM for a statement on its plans for the 2022 Chevrolet Montana, and we will update when we hear back.
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