SAN ANTONIO –believes strong future growth in the U.S. premium-pickup market will support a new range-topping Chevrolet model without stealing sales from GMC’s Denali line that has been the auto maker’s traditional lux-truck offering.
“A lot of Silverado owners have told us they want something higher,” says Maria Rohrer, director-product marketing, Chevrolet trucks.
The redesigned-for-’14 Chevy Silverado large pickup later this year will add a High Country crew-cab model featuring exterior and interior design enhancements to leapfrog the brand’s LTZ trim, which for years capped its truck lineup.
The Silverado High Country will join a burgeoning premium-pickup segment that includes theF-150 King Ranch and Platinum, Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and Tundra Platinum.
also plans a premium 1794 model when a refreshed Tundra hits dealerships in the fall, and the dog-eat-dog competitive environment of large pickups suggests is likely to do the same with its redesigned Titan due next year.
But the High Country also would seem to compete against GM’s own GMC Sierra Denali pickup and possibly other models from the division long positioned by the auto maker as a step above in the truck segment.
Rohrer insists otherwise.
“People are very brand-specific,” she tells WardsAuto at a media preview for the new Silverado, which arrives at dealers in June in trim levels ranging from the base 1WT “work truck” to the upmarket LTZ and newly configured ZL-1 edition.
Customers are so passionate, she says, that Chevy pickup buyers largely have settled for LTZ models rather than jump to other brands offering more content.
Rohrer also says packaging of the High Country puts the Silverado up against King Ranch, Tundra 1794 and Ram Laramie Longhorn. The Sierra Denali, which GM introduced in 2002 and will boast still greater standard content and a higher price, competes against the F-150 Platinum and Tundra Platinum.
The High Country’s target customer, she adds, would be the “everyday hero,” while Sierra Denali seeks the “disciplined achiever.” Design themes also differ, Rohrer says, with the High Country featuring warm, Western-inspired colors, while the Sierra Denali offers sophisticated, modern styling with cooler hues.
The future sales picture for the segment additionally suggests room exists for two luxury models atop GM’s large-pickup lines, Rohrer argues. Light-duty pickups costing more than $40,000 already comprise 30% of sales, and she thinks the High Country could command upwards of 5% or more of the Silverado mix.
“I don’t have a top-stop,” she says.
However, Rohrer does not see a return to the heyday of large-pickup sales, when according to WardsAuto data personal-use buyers pushed deliveries to 2.2 million units and a 13.4% share of industry sales in 2007.
Last year, the segment accounted for 1.6 million sales, off 24.9% from 2007. But through the first four months of this year, demand was up 20.1% to 578,068 units and an 11.7% share of industry volume, compared with 481,518 and 10.4% in like-2012.
“I don’t think (the pickup market) is going to flood back, because people learned a lesson” about conspicuous consumption, she says. “And people are still holding on to their trucks longer.”
The average age of a large pickup on the road is a record 11.8 years. But the recent reluctance of owners to return to the market also plays into GM’s favor, because those vehicles must be replaced soon.
GM will have nothing but ’14 Silverado and Sierra pickups on dealer lots by the end of the year, giving it the newest model from hook to hitch in the market untilbegins production of the redesigned F-150 later in 2014.
“I do expect my volume and my share to move up,” Rohrer says.
The Silverado High Country includes special features such as a unique grille treatment, halogen projector headlamps, body-colored bumpers, special chrome accents, 20-in. chrome wheels and a 355-hp 5.3L V-8 engine as standard equipment. A 6.2L V-8 will be optional.
GM also beefs up the Z71 package for LT and LTZ trim-level models by adding to its roster of off-road accessories a new Hill Descent Control technology, which with a push of a button activates the truck’s antilock braking system for a smooth, controlled descent of steep grades in both drive and reverse.
GM says no plans currently exist to extend the High Country trim level to its new large SUVs and midsize pickup, both coming next year.