DETROIT -- General Motors is hoping its new range of full-sized pickups, the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, do wonders for its bottom line.
"Our full-sized pickups are our highest-volume products," said GM CEO Rick Wagoner. "They are, as such, the most important component of the most important part of our North American turnaround plan."
Wagoner spoke at the unveiling of GM's restyled and re-engineered pickups on Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the automaker's proving grounds in Milford, Mich.
"We feel that we will raise the bar in the market," said Gary White, GM North America's vehicle line executive for full-sized trucks, in terms of "exterior styling, setting new standards in interiors, offering the best overall driving experience, enhancing vehicle capabilities" and also foroptional and standard features.
The importance of the pickups to GM's bottom line is exemplified by the urgency to put them on the market. Wagoner said the 2007 pickup program was pulled ahead 13 weeks. Production of light-duty Silverado and Sierra crew cabs and extended cabs will begin in October. Regular cab production starts in November. By February, heavy-duty models will be in production.
The entire Silverado and Sierra pickup range will be launched in five months. Wagoner said the last generation's model line was introduced over a two-year period that began in 1999.
The Silverado and Sierra pickups combined tallied 935,468 sales in the 2005 calendar year, accounting for 21.0 percent of GM's U.S. sales. But sales during the first seven months of this year are down 20.4 percent, accounting for 20.8 percent of GM's sales, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said he expects the full-sized pickup segment to "probably decline a little bit. It very much depends on fuel prices, and it depends on whether fuel stabilizes at $3 a gallon."