General Motors wants to boost its share of the full-sized sport-utility market with a new lineup of redesigned vehicles. Bruce Aiello, assistant vehicle line executive for full-sized trucks, says there is even more new product to come as GM tries to differentiate among the Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac truck brands. Staff Reporter Joe Miller interviewed Aiello in August. Edited excerpts follow.
GM has stated it wants to differentiate more between GMC and Chevrolet, and you've accomplished that to a point with the new vehicles. How do you further that in the years to come?
This is the start of what you'd call major differentiation as we move forward. Differentiation will continue to evolve beyond just front-end sheet metal and body-side moldings on the exterior. It will continue to involve more than just cut-and-sew patterns on seat trims and seat cloth. It will also start to grow in terms of content. There will be future content that would be exclusive to Chevrolet. And there will be other content that will be exclusive to GMC, again to match back to what its brand character is.
Can you give any examples?
There are a lot of advancements coming with computer systems, information systems and entertainment systems.
At some point don't you risk losing the commonality that makes production of these vehicles cost-efficient?
Yes and no. The thing is to differentiate where it has meaning. To differentiate wheel lug nuts doesn't have a lot of meaning. But to differentiate wheels, that does have a lot of meaning. The GMC multispoked wheel is not a wheel that fits with the Chevrolet brand character. Just little differences like that make you realize that's a different grade vehicle.
How much more profitable is this lineup of sport-utilities than before?
We did reduce parts at the assembly plant level between 25 and 30 percent. We reduced the man hours to build the vehicle through good engineering design practices and design for manufacturability.
Looking at the current Escalade, what do the customers want that they aren't getting with that vehicle?
Differentiation from the Denali. Future Escalades have to be more distinctive and more differentiated in appearance, styling and content. Again in the area of entertainment and information systems, there are a lot of things in the works that might be exclusive to Cadillac for a while. As far as the amenities, they would love to have a sunroof on the vehicle.
Do they want sheet metal that reminds them of a DeVille or Seville?
No. In the clinics we've had, they don't want a vehicle that is nondescript. They don't necessarily want it to look like their Cadillac car, but they don't want it to be so close to somebody else's truck. Sharing (a platform) with the Denali at this point is not a big deal, because the Denali is distinctive enough. But if the Escalade started looking like a Tahoe, that would be almost the same syndrome we had with the Cimarron, and we're not going to make that mistake again.
Distinctiveness of appearance is important, and we have to work that out.