NEW YORK – Competition from new Asian fullsize truck and SUV entries is not cutting intoCorp.’s market share, says Gary White, vice president-GM North America and vehicle line executive for the segment.
Although deliveries have declined 2% so far this year, GM sales of big trucks and SUVs have slipped a mere 1%, he says.
And despite a decline of 500,000 units annually since its sales heyday a few years ago, the fullsize pickup market is healthy and profitable at its current volume, White says.
"The pickup market is not going away anytime soon," he adds, as fullsize trucks are retaining their utility and popularity with buyers, despite skyrocketing fuel prices.
White also observes pickup buyers are "reasonably affluent," which insulates them from the shocks of high fuel prices and loss of home-equity values.
"We've been pleasantly surprised with the T900s (Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra)," he says. "We're selling a richer mix because more options are being taken by our buyers."
Some 40%-45% of GMC trucks are Denali SUVs, the highest trim level the company offers. "This is a very profitable truck,” he says.
However, White is not taking competition from theTitan and Tundra lightly. "They will never quit," he says of the competition, but notes he is confident GM will prevail in light-truck sales among both foreign and domestic challengers.
The key is the auto maker’s focus on quality, “because we didn't want to give our customers a reason for leaving (the brand)," says White, who is determined to prevent the loss of domestic-car sales to foreign competitors to repeat itself with trucks.
At the same time, he praises theand trucks. "I have nothing but kudos for the products they've done. I see great things in every one of our competitors," he says, although noting there are areas where the new Asian trucks need improvement.
"They have a lot of work to do," White says. "But we'll continue to improve as the leading truck in the segment."
However, product is just one piece of the equation. "There's a lot of places where they don't have stores – towns of 30,000 people, where a dealer might sell 100 trucks a year," White explains.
"We're going to make it really tough for (the Asian competition) to get a toehold in these markets. These are the areas where we're going to beat them."
Another part of GM's success springs from a constant focus on beating the competition in drivability, performance and features. "We took the best of all the competitors (and beat them)," he says. "We also worked on aerodynamics to get better fuel economy."
White is confident GM sales will remain strong next year despiteMotor Co.’s upcoming launch of its next-generation F-150 pickup.
"I'm surewill do a really good truck,” he says, “but we did not lose share to the present F-150 when our (previous-generation) T800 trucks were 4-years old."
Heightened competition in the big-truck segment hasn't taken a personal toll on White, he claims. "I had an opportunity to do a lot of other things," he says. "I said, ‘No,’ because I wanted to stick around here. I'm very focused on fullsize trucks."