confirms plans to build an all-new GMC Canyon midsize pickup, one of nine fresh vehicles from Buick-GMC in the next 15 months.
“There are buyers out there that want a right-sized truck,” Tony DiSalle, vice president-marketing at Buick-GMC, says during a Thursday conference call with journalists. “There is certainly an opportunity there.”
A redesigned Canyon has been widely anticipated, given the auto maker’s earlier announcement of a new Chevrolet Colorado for production at its Wentzville, MO, assembly plant.
DiSalle confirms the Canyon project ahead of an annual meeting with the Buick-GMC dealer body at GM’s Milford, MI, proving grounds, where the franchise owners drive new product and hear plans for future cars and trucks.
The dealers also learn the two upscale brands, which often share retail space because their customers are so closely linked, will receive nine all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles by the end of next year.
DiSalle counts the Buick Enclave large CUV and LaCrosse large sedan, as well as the GMC Sierra large pickup and Yukon large SUV, among them. Each of the nine products was expected.
GM also releases pricing today on the Buick Encore, saying the small CUV will start at $24,950 including destination charges. Known as the “Baby Enclave,” the Encore occupies an emerging segment with few competitors.
“Judging by our dealer comments, social-media buzz and visitors to Buick.com, there is a lot of pent-up demand for a vehicle of this size, price and character,” DiSalle says.
The marketing executive says the Encore has drawn twice as many requests for additional information by prospective buyers than the Verano small sedan, which has posted nine consecutive months of sales increases since launching late last year.
Through August, Buick sales in the U.S. were down 3.1% to 122,589 units, according to WardsAuto data. Officials blame the decline on an intentional reduction in fleet sales. The brand’s share of the U.S. market in the first eight months slipped to 1.27% from 1.5% in like-2011.
GMC sales through August rose 4.4% to 273,366 units on the strength of demand for the Sierra, although the brand’s U.S. share has ticked down to 2.8% from 3.1% year-ago.
To accommodate production of the new Colorado and Canyon pickups, GM is investing $380 million into the Wentzville facility. Ground broke for the expansion earlier this year. The plant also is home to the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana large cargo and passenger vans.
The midsize-pickup segment has lost popularity in recent years, because large pickups deliver competitive fuel economy and cost only fractionally more. After selling the Ranger for years,has chosen to exit the segment in the U.S., leaving sales leader and as the key players.
In just the past four years, the segment shrunk to 2.3% of industry sales from 3.2%, and unit sales fell to 297,895 in 2011 from 516,875 in 2007.
But GM introduced the new Colorado to Asia/Pacific markets in late 2011 and shortly afterward revealed plans to build the truck in Wentzville as part of a new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers union.
The auto maker’s Shreveport, LA, assembly plant built the trucks until just weeks ago, when the facility went dark as part of GM’s U.S. manufacturing-capacity reductions.
It remains unclear exactly when GM’s new midsize pickups will hit U.S. showrooms, although a WardsAuto forecast schedules the Colorado and Canyon for 2014 as ’15 models.