DETROIT - General Motors will bring the 1998 model year to an early end this month for its Chevrolet C/K and GMC Sierra half-ton extended-cab full-sized pickups. GM will continue to build the half-ton versions of those trucks, but it will call them 1999 models.
The move will help the company meet federal light-truck corporate average fuel economy requirements. By shortening the 1998 model year for the trucks, GM will earn credits for 1998, which it can apply to 1995 when its trucks fell short, said Dan Flores, a GM truck group spokesman.
GM will continue to build regular-cab half-ton as well as three-quarter-ton and one-ton versions of the 1998 full-sized trucks into July.
GM has taken two other steps to meet CAFE requirements: First, it has been restricting the number of V-8 engines available for its 1998 full-sized pickups. Second, the company has been building fewer 1998 four-wheel-drive pickups and more two-wheel drives, Flores said.
In February, GM also cut short the 1998 model year for the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon due to CAFE. GM continues to build those vehicles, but it now calls them 1999 models.
SAME TRUCK, NEW NAME
When they end the 1998 model year for the half-ton extended-cab, Chevrolet and GMC will jump immediately into the 1999 model year with the same half-ton truck.
GMC will call its half-ton the 1999 Sierra Classic Commemorative Edition. Chevrolet will call its half-ton the 1999 C/K LS. The half-ton trucks will be available from May to December, said officials at Chevrolet and GMC.
The redesigned 1999 truck, called Silverado by Chevrolet and Sierra by GMC, will go on sale in the fall. GM initially will offer half-ton and three-quarter-ton versions of the redesigned truck, but it has not said when the one-ton will be go on sale.
But the name-game confusion does not end there.
As GM begins selling the redesigned 1999 trucks, it also will add three-quarter-ton and one-ton models to its lineup from the old 1998 C/K platform. Those vehicles, which also will be 1999 models, will be called Chevrolet C/K and GMC Sierra pickups. GM has not said when production of those vehicles will end.
Having two pickup designs on the market at the same time is not new to GM. It did the same thing in 1988.
'That went over real well,' said Jim Jarvis, a sales manager at Horner Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Crawfordsville, Ind. Some consumers were not ready to jump into the new model right away, he said.
But explaining the changes to customers might be difficult, especially for GMC dealers.
Chevrolet is renaming its redesigned truck the Silverado, but GMC is sticking by the Sierra name. So in the fall, GMC dealers will have two different truck designs with the same name. Plus, they will still be selling 1999 Sierra Classics and leftover 1998 Sierras.
Jarvis said he already has a 1997 extended-cab pickup that is $200 more than the 1998 model sitting next to it.
'Someone looking at the '97 would be crazy not to buy the '98,' he said.
The redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will first be assembled at GM's Oshawa, Ontario, plant this summer, followed by its Pontiac, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind., plants.
The half-ton extended-cab that is based on the current platform and is due this month as a 1999 model will be built at GM's Arlington, Texas, plant. In addition, GM will build the current versions of the three-quarter-ton and one-ton models with the 1999 designation in Flint, Mich., this fall.
Flint will add a third production shift for the additional units, Flores said.