GM pickup strategy: Zig as rivals zag
Trucks get new engines, more muscular exteriors
DETROIT -- Last week's premiere of General Motors' redesigned full-sized pickups spotlighted the divergent truck strategies of GM and its Detroit 3 rivals.
Industry insiders had wondered whether GM would try to counter the success that Ford Motor Co. has had with its turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 on its F-150 pickup. Or whether it would use the sort of fuel-saving technologies that Chrysler Group put on its re-engineered Ram 1500, such as an eight-speed transmission or a stop-start system.
Instead, GM unveiled next-generation Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras that will offer new small block engines with displacements similar to its current powertrain lineup. None will be turbocharged. All will be combined with six-speed transmissions. No hybrids will be offered.
Still, each engine choice -- a 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8s -- will have better horsepower, torque and fuel economy than its predecessor, GM execs said. The EPA has not yet rated the trucks' fuel economy, and other details will be released early next year. The trucks are to go on sale by June.
Some dealers and pundits think GM played it safe with modest exterior styling changes and lack of a sexy powertrain technology. But some think that's a good move.
"If this truck can deliver substantial improvements in fuel efficiency and power, then it should do just fine" and "take some share," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas says. "There's just a ton of loyalty in the full-sized pickup segment."
GM executives expressed confidence that the strategy is a winner. Some key elements:
Every customer, whether buying a basic Silverado work truck or a top-of-the-line Sierra Denali, will get GM's most advanced powertrain technology: a next-gen small block that uses cylinder deactivation to reduce fuel use at cruising speeds. GM says it didn't want to limit its best technology to a slice of its customer base that is willing to pay more -- a dig at Ford, which charges more for its EcoBoost engine.
GM believes it can counter any fuel-efficiency edge that rivals might have with a mid-sized truck: redesigned versions of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, due out in 2014. Ford and Chrysler have left that segment.
"We need to stop looking at light-duty trucks head-to-head as one portfolio, and instead look at light-duty and mid-sized trucks as a portfolio," GM North America President Mark Reuss said.
The new Silverado and Sierra sport taller profiles than their predecessors. Each has a more muscular look, with a domed hood and more-sculpted body sides.
The most substantial changes are inside. The trucks feature GM's newest infotainment touch screens with big, easy-to-reach knobs; more soft-touch material; better seats; more storage compartments and more rear-seat room on crew cab models.
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