DETROIT - General Motors hopes to fix a significant weakness in its full-sized pickup lineup with two redesigned heavy-duty vehicles due to reach showrooms in August 2000.
The 2001 Chevrolet Silverado HD and the GMC Sierra HD will go head-to-head with Ford Motor Co.'s popular F-series SuperDuty pickups. GM will unveil both trucks to the press Tuesday, Dec. 14, in Pontiac, Mich.
Although GM beats Ford in the half-ton pickup market, GM has fallen well behind Ford in three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks. And the gap between the automakers has widened further since Ford introduced the redesigned SuperDuty lineup in 1998.
Ford surprised the market when it introduced the redesigned SuperDuty models. The previous SuperDuty models were marketed as tough work trucks that shared sheet metal and some creature comforts with the popular F-150s.
But with the redesigned SuperDuty lineup, Ford created fresh exterior styling totally different from the F-150. The changes gave the new SuperDuty lineup a personality all its own.
Moreover, the option list provided nearly everything found in a luxury car - from leather-trimmed seats to a CD player. Additionally, Ford improved its powertrains.
'Chevrolet has not been competitive in this arena the past few years. We have not kept pace,' said Kurt Ritter, Chevrolet's general marketing manager, during an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Ritter said the market for heavy-duty trucks has doubled during the past 10 years. During the same period, the market for diesel-powered, heavy-duty pickups has tripled.
Ritter expects GM to start catching up with Ford when it moves its heavy-duty trucks from the old GMT400 platform to the new GMT800 platform. GM switched its half-ton pickups to GMT800 in late 1998 and most of its full-sized sport-utilities to GMT800 in November.
The new Silverado HD and Sierra HD will feature two new engines: the new Duramax diesel engine from Isuzu Motors Ltd., which puts out more torque than Ford's diesel, and a new Vortec 8.1-liter V-8 gasoline engine.
But even with new powertrains, GM will have a tough time topping Ford. Since 1997, Ford's share of the one-ton market has increased 8.2 percentage points to 56.7 percent for the year through October. At the same time, GM's share of that market has sunk 9 percentage points to 26.1 percent.
With these new trucks, Ritter said, 'We will be a volume player with production that rivals Ford.'
Product editor Rick Kranz contributed to this report