Can GM sustain a quicker product pace?

Mike Colias has covered General Motors for Automotive News since December 2010.

General Motors' product cadence has officially escaped the post-bankruptcy doldrums.

Now the challenge is to keep it humming, industry analysts say.

Chevrolet and GMC are nearing completion of a top-to-bottom overhaul of their truck lineups. Cadillac's and Buick's showrooms -- threadbare three years ago -- have fresh sedans and are awaiting new crossovers and variants.

A June analysis from Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy shows GM's product progression: For the 2012 and '13 model years, GM's "replacement rate" -- the percentage of its sales volume derived from new or enhanced products -- averaged just 9 percent, vs. 18 percent for the industry overall. But for the '14 model year, it shot up to 34 percent, thanks largely to its redesigned pickups and SUVs. It should average 26 percent for the '15 and '16 model years, outpacing the industry's 21 percent average, Murphy's analysis shows.

Many of the redesigned entries slated for launch next year show that GM has compressed the wait time between vehicle generations, and in many cases is on par with Asian rivals, which traditionally have done better at keeping their showrooms fresh.

For example, the next-generation iterations of the Chevy Cruze compact and Volt plug-in hybrid are slated for the second half of next year, marking a relatively short five years to redesign. The overhauled '16 Camaro also should debut in the second half of 2015, less than seven years after its reintroduction, which would be speedier than the Ford Mustang's redesign by a couple of years.

Still, Murphy's analysis shows that GM's replacement rate dips slightly below the industry average for the '17 and '18 model years. GM would need to turn out more fresh sheet metal than expected if it wants to gain market share between now and then, he concludes.

Dave Sullivan, product analyst for AutoPacific Inc., notes that many of GM's coming vehicle launches highlight the increasingly global nature of its product portfolio. The timing of the U.S. launches of the Cruze and Spark minicar, for example, are tied closely to launches in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.

"Before, GM had too many brands and its regions all seemed to operate independently from one another," Sullivan says. "It's a good sign that the global product cadence is now tied together much more so than in the past."

You can reach Mike Colias at

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