General Motors says its redesigned full-sized pickup will be on the market in calendar 1998 despite a nearly three-month strike at a truck plant in Pontiac, Mich.
Company spokesman Tom Beaman confirmed prototypes of the new truck now will be built and tested at the pickup assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, instead of Pontiac to keep the program on schedule. Pontiac originally had been scheduled as the lead plant.
'We can't get into (Pontiac) to modernize it so we had to change to Oshawa,' Beaman said. 'Nothing is being delayed.'
Beaman would not say when the tooling would be installed at Osh-awa or when Job 1 is scheduled for the truck.
David Hansen, category director for Chevrolet, told Automotive News on June 1 that production is scheduled for calendar 1998, and the vehicle would be on the market as a 1999 model, but he did not give a specific month.
'We plan to stay on schedule,' said Hansen, who supervises the truck brand managers at Chevrolet.
Suppliers say the official word from GM is that the 1500 and 2500 series trucks will debut for the 1999 model year.
Under the schedule, the new full-sized sport-utilities based on the pickup platform will come out the next year, and then the 3500 series will be introduced for the 2001 model year.
Some suppliers and union executives also say the unofficial word within GM is that the program is delayed for one-half to one model year, and that it may debut as a 2000 model.
The new truck is needed if GM wants to keep momentum going in the full-sized segment.
Despite the strike at Pontiac, Chevrolet has gained some small ground on main rival Ford Division in the full-sized truck segment. From January through June, the Ford F series had a 106,267 unit lead over the Chevrolet C/K, compared to a 131,378 unit lead at the same time last year.
When General Motors' other full-sized pickup, the GMC Sierra, is included, Ford Division's lead was 22,875 units on June 30, compared to a 44,658 lead on June 30 last year.
'We have been able to gain market share (with) the current C/K even though a new one is coming out in '99,' Hansen said.
Hansen would not talk about the new truck. He did say that research shows that a lot of Chevrolet customers are offended by a big macho-looking truck. He said they want a bigger cab and more powerful engine.
Meantime, talks continue between GM and the union representing the striking Pontiac workers.
'We need all the truck plants we have,' spokesman Beaman said. 'We need the capacity; Pontiac will be a key player in the new product.'