DETROIT -- General Motors is limiting dealer orders on many popular models of its pickups and freshly redesigned big SUVs because of short supplies of four-wheel-drive systems, V-8 engines and other components.
A memo sent to Chevrolet dealers last week lists more than two dozen "constraints" affecting availability of the 2014 light-duty Silverado and the new 2015 Suburban and Tahoe SUVs. The shortage of popular truck and SUV features include 18- and 20-inch wheels, trailering packages and top-trim LTZ models.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson confirmed to Automotive News that there are "some" constraints affecting availability of certain truck models and features. He declined to identify items in short supply or to quantify how long certain models are being delayed.
"We're working with suppliers to ease the constraints," he said.
The ordering limits are frustrating some dealers, who say demand is high for the redesigned 2015 SUVs, launched in January as the first overhaul of the big utilities in eight years. Dealers fear missing out on the early launch window that tends to bring out big spenders.
"A lot of the features and models that people want and are willing to pay extra for, we can't get," said Rox Covert, dealer principal at two Chevrolet dealerships and two Buick-GMC stores in Austin, Texas.
Covert said he has sold orders for 47 Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans and 31 GMC Yukons that have gone unfilled for several weeks. He said many of the customers have been waiting since February.
Dealer ordering constraints aren't uncommon, especially during new model launches. But many GM dealers say that the breadth of the shortages is unusual.
"We've had more constraints than we're accustomed to," on the trucks, said Steve Hurley, co-owner of Stingray Chevrolet in Plant City, Fla., and chairman of the Chevrolet National Dealer Council. "It's been a little frustrating. We look forward to selling more of those high-end models."
Covert went further, describing the shortages as the "worst constraints" he has seen since a two-month strike in 1998 disrupted production at GM's Flint, Mich., truck plant.
The situation highlights the challenges facing GM as it executes three high-volume launches over a nine-month span.
GM's redesigned Silverado and Sierra light-duty pickups were launched last summer, while the heavy duty versions of the pickups, along with the SUVs, began arriving in dealerships in January. The trucks share the same platform and are assembled at GM plants in Flint, Mich., Fort Wayne, Ind., Arlington, Texas and Silao, Mexico.
GM pushed back the SUV launch by three months to ensure a trouble-free pickup rollout, GM product chief Mark Reuss told Automotive News last year.
Even so, GM has struggled with production constraints throughout the launches. Last fall, a shortage of axles from an American Axle plant in Mexico curbed availability of V-8 pickup models, Automotive News reported.
Constraints on many models and packages are expected to last more than four weeks, according to the memo sent to dealers. A sample of those includes:
- LTZ trim level on '15 Silverado and Tahoe
- The maximum trailering package on the ‘15 Suburban and Tahoe
- Diesel engines on the '15 Silverado heavy duty double and crew cabs
- Four-wheel-drive models of the '14 Silverado light duty
- V-8 engines on '14 Silverado light duty double-cab models
GM is encouraging dealers to creatively work around some of the constraints.
For example, the memo says the tight supply of 4WD Silverados "opens opportunities" for dealers in warm weather states to order two-wheel-drive models with a locking rear differential instead, "a great alternative to more expensive four-wheel-drive trucks."
Truck sales are crucial to GM's bottom line. A surge in transaction prices from the redesigned trucks added about $700 million to GM’s pretax profit during the first quarter, although that was wiped out by a charge to cover a spate of recalls.
Despite the constraints, GM has recorded surging sales of pricey pickups and SUVs in recent months. In the first quarter, Silverado and Sierra accounted for 37.7 percent of all pickups sold for $40,000 or more, up from 26.7 percent a year earlier, data from J.D. Power and Associates show.
GM's pickup and SUV sales rose sharply in April. Silverado sales rose 9 percent, to 42,755, while Sierra sales jumped 21 percent, to 17,246. And GM said deliveries of its big SUVs climbed 22 percent last month.