PONTIAC, MI –’ redesigned-for-’14 large pickup trucks will unclog a pipeline of new product introductions held up by its 2009 bankruptcy, the auto maker’s top executive in North America says.
“It’s just the beginning,” GMNA President Mark Reuss says of the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
GM will refresh 80% of its products in the next 18 months, including 13 new cars and trucks at its volume Chevrolet brand, Reuss tells WardsAuto at the introduction of the new pickups here
The product offensive will put the auto maker on equal footing with its key competitors.
The all-important large pickups, for example, were held up for a year due to the bankruptcy.
“We are the oldest portfolio, car and truck, in the industry right now,” Reuss says. “We’ve got great products, but we’re the oldest. So we’re going to turn it and turn it as fast as we can, starting with these (pickups).”
GM has introduced a number of new or redesigned small and midsize cars and cross/utility vehicles in recent years to better balance its product portfolio after years of over-reliance on big-truck sales.
Popular CUVs, for instance, accounted for 24.4% of the auto maker’s U.S. sales through November. In 2007, they comprised 12.8%. GM’s CUV deliveries also are ahead of the industry’s pace of 23.6% compared with 17.3% in 2007.
But trucks still fatten the balance sheet like no other product. Reuss stops short of predicting a boom in the segment, but says combined with new offerings currently in the market from its competitors and an improving economy, the segment should gain new traction next year.
Light trucks, excluding CUVs, currently command 25.9% of the market. That share has stood relatively stable since 2009. But prior to the recession, trucks owned upwards of 38.5% of the market, WardsAuto data shows.
“There will be a lot more interest, with the new technology in our trucks (and) the competitors,” Reuss says. “There are some great things happening in the truck market.”
GM will follow the introduction of the Silverado and Sierra, which begin production in the second quarter, with a new lineup of large SUVs, followed by new midsize pickups from Chevrolet and GMC to replace the aging Colorado and Canyon.
“We own the (SUV) market. Lots of loyal customers, lots of retention, so expect to see a similar lineup” in early to mid-2014, Reuss says.
The new Colorado and Canyon will give GM a 6-pickup go-to-market strategy, with three offerings each from Chevy and GMC. GM redid its heavy-duty Silverado and Sierra pickups in 2011.
Reuss believes the approach will give the auto maker a competitive edge in a market susceptible to variations in fuel prices and economic conditions. “We’re going to do a bandwidth of things that are going to ensure a solid operating and duty cycle across our lineup.”
But one potential hole in its truck lineup at this point could be the absence of an 8-speed transmission. GM has scheduled the technology for production at its Toledo, OH, powertrain facility, but timing remains unclear. The new Silverado and Sierra arrive next year with 6-speed gearboxes.
“We’ll have very compelling powertrain choices that continue to evolve early in the life cycle of this truck,” he says.
As for a diesel-powered light-duty truck, Reuss sticks with remarks he made to WardsAuto at the Los Angeles auto show in November, saying “Stay tuned.”
However, he points to the Chevy Cruze diesel coming in the fourth quarter as a signal from GM about the future of oil-burners in its lineup of cars and trucks.
“There’s a place for diesels (in the U.S.). At the end of the day, it is the most efficient,” Reuss says, noting new diesel technology has eliminated past emissions issues, and the quality of diesel fuel across the country is becoming more consistent.
“Fundamentally, there’s a place for diesels here,” he says.