The word “truth” in our title has long been a cudgel for our critics, who, finding fault with our analysis, condemn us for failing to publish their version of the truth. But, as I’ve steadfastly maintained since taking up TTAC’s editorial reins, we do not hold ourselves up as the sole source of truth. Rather, by provoking an engaging discussion, we hope that our readers will use our posts as a jumping-off point to debate the issue at hand with vigor. The truth, as I find myself saying again and again, is a journey, not a destination.
Accordingly, I’m always thrilled when manufacturers read our pieces and offer up their own counterpoint to the discussion, broadening our understanding of the issue at hand and moving the conversation forward. One of my posts from yesterday, which examined GM’s decision to invest in full-sized truck production in the midst of CAFE negotiations and an inventory backlog, has drawn just such a thoughtful response from GM’s Tom Wilkinson, which is published after the jump. It provides some inside perspective on GM’s decision to move forward with the next generation of full-sized pickups, and is a great example of the kind of conversations that TTAC hopes to start every day.
Wilkinson, who works on the Chevrolet communications team, writes:
Customers currently buying pickups are generally those who need the capability of a full-size truck for hauling and/or towing. Consequently, we expect full-size pickups to remain around 11 percent of the total U.S. vehicle market. Chevrolet is currently a strong second in the segment, with 27 to 28 percent share, and we expect to defend, and potentially grow that share.
Following a boom during the mid-1990s, resulting from the demise of most large cars and station wagons coupled with cheap gas and attractive lease payments, utilities have returned to pre-boom sales levels. Full-size utilities are purchased by affluent customers who need passenger and cargo space and towing capability, and we expect volume to remain relatively stable. Chevrolet intends to defend its dominant position (almost 50 percent share) with a new generation of more efficient Tahoes and Suburbans.
You are correct that many of the personal use buyers who fueled the truck boom have moved on, to sporty cars for those who just wanted power and style, and to crossovers for those who just need space. Please note that Chevrolet and other GM brands are doing very well in both segments, so it is not like we lost these customers.
I don’t think we, or any of our competitors, expect full-size trucks to return to housing-boom levels. Note that we have resized our manufacturing footprint to compete effectively and profitably at realistic future sales levels. That fact seems to be lost on some of the critics, who seem to have snoozed through the plant closings of the past few years.