By on July 20, 2011

[UPDATE: GM responds to this piece here]

With environmentalist groups on the warpath over forthcoming 2017-2025 CAFE standards, trucks sitting on lots, and the Flint HD Pickup plant idled for much of the month, this is probably not exactly the moment GM might have chosen to put $328m into tooling for new full-sized pickups to be built at Flint. But time and the market wait for no company, and because the Silverado is GM’s single best-selling product, the investment isn’t tough to justify:

“Truck sales play an important role in the success of General Motors,” said Joe Ashton, UAW-GM Vice President. “We are confident that the next-generation of trucks will continue to be an important source of revenue for the company and jobs for our members

In case there’s any confusion though, GM is making perfectly sure nobody thinks they’re making any product choices because of union demands. At the investment announcement ceremony at Flint, Cathy Clegg, GM vice president of labor relations told Reuters [via Automotive News [sub]]

We certainly aren’t going to make a decision and make a commitment solely as a way of getting an agreement. If the market doesn’t drive it, we can’t do that

So, how is that truck market?

GM’s presser notes

GM’s retail share of the full-size pickup market has grown to 40.4 percent through May compared with 37.7 percent in the first five months of 2010.

That’s not bad at all…but it doesn’t really answer the question. So, how is that truck market?

Not bad at all! From 2008 until well into last year it seemed like cars would pull away from the trucks, but the big boys have staged a comeback. And all the growth has been in domestics too, as import brand truck sales have been stalled since the ’08 downturn. In the short term that’s great for Detroit, but in the long term it’s also the first hint of trouble for the overall market. For more let’s dig into those truck numbers

Here’s what happens when you break those trucks into what they really are: pickups, SUVs and vans. With this breakdown we can see that the pickup market isn’t looking all that solid at all, and looks unlikely to ever return to the 3m+ annual sales levels of its halcyon days. All the growth in “trucks” is coming from SUVs… and you can probably guess what the next drilldown is…

Here’s your roaring “truck” market: car-based crossovers, not body-on-frame dinosaurs. With truck-based SUVs headed back down and pickups going nowhere, the long-term prospects for the next-generation of truck platforms aren’t stellar. Let’s hope GM has seen the handwriting on the wall and will have some forward-thinking surprises for the new full-sizers, because in a market like this they need to keep winning retail share. And because nearly two million annual truck units is worth chasing, because Flint’s big trucks are important to GM’ relationship with the UAW and because the Volt is built for those bankable, swappable CAFE credits, this pickup investment is a no-brainer… for now, anyway.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

45 Comments on “In The Midst Of CAFE Negotiations, GM Re-Invests In Trucks...”


  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    That new Silverado front end is hideous.

    This doesn’t surprise me as this has been GM’s way of handling things, head in sand, though not quite to the levels they once exhibited though thankfully.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      The picture is a GMC. That would make it a Sierra, not a Silverado.

      And the picture is a GMC concept floated around last year to compete with the Ford Raptor. It is not the front end of the next production model. No one outside of the designers has seen that.

    • 0 avatar
      vento97

      > this has been GM’s way of handling things, head in sand,

      I was thinking about a different location where GM’s head is inserted – but we’re in agreement…

  • avatar
    jmo

    Speaking of CAFE – I notice that the 2.1L 4-cyl Mercedes diesel makes 204-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That would work for well enough for your typical full size entry level pickup driver? No?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      No, your typical full size pickup truck driver needs a V8, preferably with more than six liters of displacement and a recognizable name like “hemi”, in order to commute to work by himself with an empty pickup bed. After all, a 4-cylinder engine won’t be able to pull the boat he might buy one day after the banks get dumb enough to let him remortgage his house again.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Aristurtle, as smug as your comment sounds, in a lot of cases it is probably true. The numbers show that this segment of the market is shrinking fast. Driving a very big $40k+ vehicle, whose capacity you don’t utilize, and operating costs are horrendous, gets old after a while for most grown ups.

        Light trucks serve an important function in the automotive landscape, but for many buyers the bloom is off the full size pickup/SUV rose.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Hey, I’m not denigrating those people; they’re no worse really than the people who buy a Porsche with an automatic transmission, or who get a Prius, ostensibly to save the environment, when hanging on to their 2001 Civic HX for another few years would probably save more trees in the long run, or buy a big Harley, ride it home from the dealer, and it sits in the garage for three years until they sell it on Craigslist or whatever. Nobody is perfectly rational about all their purchases. These are all stereotypes, but they’re all close enough to reality that automakers have made a bunch of money off of them.

        But, yeah, right now the kind of truck buyer that I’m talking about is moving away from buying a new big truck every few years, largely because he can’t secure a loan for one anymore. The fact that this is happening right when Ford and Dodge are ditching their compact trucks and GM’s compact truck is probably the worst pickup on the market is probably a bad sign, but hey, they didn’t ask me.

      • 0 avatar

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

        No, if he gets the boat he’ll need to trade it in on an even bigger truck, just in case he actually gets around to pulling the boat.

        John

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @aristurtle

        Hey, I’m not denigrating those people; they’re no worse really than the people who buy a Porsche with an automatic transmission, or who get a Prius, ostensibly to save the environment, when hanging on to their 2001 Civic HX for another few years would probably save more trees in the long run…

        Post of the day FTW!

      • 0 avatar
        vento97

        > recognizable name like “hemi”,

        The power of marketing to the gullible is amazing, isn’t it? Nevermind the fact that the so-called “hemi” is actually a pentroof combustion chamber design, and Chrysler hasn’t built a TRUE hemi (hemispherical combustion chamber) since 1971.

        During my high school days in the 1970’s, true hemi-powered MOPARS were commonplace in the school parking lots.

      • 0 avatar
        porcpuffer

        How about those who buy a Prius (or Lexus version thereof) for the trip from the Gulfstream to the red carpet?

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Probably like the dually 4WD I saw the other day in traffic whose owner couldn’t afford new tires. They were SO bald that there was no tread pattern left and a couple of the rear tires had the belts showing about 90% of the way around the tires. He was driving like a hoon too belching all sorts of smoke.

        A friend told me – watch the tires on these trucks in traffic. It’ll tell you how bad the local economy is and indeed I have seen several who need tires but can’t afford to buy a set.

      • 0 avatar
        zbnutcase

        The very boat he will leave untouched for 5 years, then call me 3 days before a holiday weekend he has planned with 17 relatives flying in from all across the country to get up and running because all it needs is a “tune up”… Ran great the last time I used it, he says…and then crap his pants because it needs a new engine because “he”(Captain Cool with the Big Truck) didn’t bother to have it winterized… and the block is freeze cracked all to he@@!….meatheads abound…

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    At what point do the grills of these things become cartoons? I realize that some buyers of full size trucks like to pretend they’re driving Kenworths but this is reaching levels of stupidity not seen since Ford put a vagina on the front of their new car line and called them Edsels.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Well, everything goes in cycles, and if you go back into the 1950s you can find some pretty hideous grillework too. It creates a demand in the aftermarket for something slightly less hideous as well. I have found that some grilles seem pretty out there when they first came out, but then seem pretty normal after seeing them on the road for a few years. Heck, even the Acura Smiling Clown Cars are, well, um . . . no actually they’re still pretty egregious!

      Speaking of Edsels and their styling, compare the first-year Edsel with the first-generation Subaru Tribeca (front grille & rear taillights) and tell me there isn’t some scary parallels there!

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    There’s really no reason why GM and Ford can’t go back to 10+ year product cycles on fullsize trucks and SUVs. Given the shrinking size of the segment and the intense loyalty of the typical truck buyer, there’s really no need to reinvest so often.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      For what it’s worth, Ford seems to have done that on the Super Duty and Expedition lines.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The Expedition is getting a bit old. The current model was brought in ’07, and as far as I know, there isn’t a major overhaul planned in the next couple of years. The platform itself is great – better interior packaging and ride/handling than what GM offers, but the 5.4 Triton V8 is lagging behind the competition at this point. Since the Expedition already has plenty of space, a fold flat rear seat, and an IRS, a refresh with a nicer interior and the engine options from F-150 (even if it was just the 3.7 liter base V6 and the EcoBoost 3.5) would vault it to the top spot in the segment.

        The Super Duty was completely redone in ’08, and received new engines/transmission and a refreshed exterior with minor interior updates for ’11. Right now it’s a competitive product that’s still fairly new. The basic frame design could last a long time, but with truck sales still being a major chunk of the market, and businesses guaranteed to update their fleets when the economy picks back up, I don’t think it will be left on the vine for too long.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      You mean like 1973-87 (pickups) or 1973-91 (suburban)? Sounds good to me. It was a great way to make pure profit, after all the tooling was paid for and depreciated!

      Most people who really need a truck want simple utility and reliability.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I smell new Suburbans and Yukons for the FBI and Secret Service!

    (But seriously…) I think the market is drying up too. Longer product cycles would utimately benefit profitability as another poster brought up, but longer cycles and lower sales also mean fewer well paying truck plant jobs.

    And I am now suddenly worried about the continued opperation of the GM Truck plant in Fort Wayne, IN once the “consolidation” starts.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Longer product cycles would utimately benefit profitability…

      Ha ha ha! Reminds me of the Olds Cutlass Ciera! Made them forever! GM did make money off them, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I notice that the 2.1L 4-cyl Mercedes diesel makes 204-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That would work for well enough for your typical full size entry level pickup driver? No?”

    I’ve said it before if GM offered an Isuzu I4 diesel, designed for fuel effcieny versus performance in a 1/2 ton chassis, they wouldn’t be able to build them fast enough.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Those specs are very close to the 4.7l V8 in my ’02 Dakota: 235 hp / 295 lb-ft. I’d gladly give up a few ponies to gain the extra torque and fuel mileage increase of a diesel. What kind of MPG would a truck with such an engine get? 24/30? I’d prefer a “mid-sized” truck like my Dakota – full size is really too big for me. And yes I tow a boat: about 200 miles almost every weekend (I’m in Florida) so I really use my truck for you know… truck stuff.

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    How much longer before GM comes crawling back to the U.S taxpayers to bail them out again?

    Why dont’t worry more about clearing those lots of excessive capacity instead of re-tooling to build yet MORE trucks that are likely going to SIT on lots?

    After all these years, when will automakers learn?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      What are you complaining about? As Ed said towards the end of this article pickup trucks probably won`t get back to 3 million units but having a decent offering in a 2 million unit market is well worth the investment. GM has a 40% share so 800,000 units a year – that is more than most manufacturers have in the US with across all segments (VW, Hyundai, Subaru etc).

      Also it was mentioned that investment decisions have to be made years before and of course there is an element of risk. We will see.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        I’m just sick and tired of seeing big-ass trucks on the roads driven by men on an ego kick. They tailgate, they pass illegally and it just pisses me off in general. I HATE BIG TRUCKS.

        Yes, they’re a necessary evil. There are people who own businesses that need trucks to haul their stuff. The truck sales ensure that Americans have jobs building them.

        But then again, there’s the 40-50 something douche that just wants a truck for a status symbol. I can’t stand that.

      • 0 avatar
        m1shu

        @car_guy

        I HATE BIG TRUCKS and I can not lie
        You other brothers can’t deny…

        Ah quit your whining. No one’s forcing you to buy a truck. Why should you be a pisser and deny people their right to buy one? MYOB.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        And the big diesel guys who run around our town blowing CLOUDS of soot on other cars sitting at traffic lights (some of them have the fuel turned up on their trucks so they smoke alot on takeoff). Watched one do that to a minivan back in the spring which had all the windows open.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        You two got big truck envy or something? Or are they like the Antichrist to you? Modern Diesels don’t smoke except maybe on startup and truck drivers are no more discourteous than any other class of driver. You guys just want to start something and rant about how horrible trucks and their drivers are because you think that everyone ought to be just like you. Get over yourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Modern diesels can smoke if the owners futz with the emissions systems or the ECM.

        Then again, any vehicle can be obnoxious if the owner decides to modify it to a spec different from what it was designed to do. I dislike motorcycles that have pipes so loud that you can barely hear yourself think as well as little Japanese compacts with dual 15″ subwoofers that rattle my teeth when they drive by.

        It’s not the vehicle that’s inconsiderate, it’s the owner.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @car_guy2010

      Most of the aggressive driving douches I see are in German cars. At least from the view I get from my lifted 4X4. I may already be a douch in your eyes but my truck doesn’t handle good enough to do the stunts you describe plus cops can see me from a half mile off so it’d be kinda stupid.

      Go ahead and hate me for my truck, I’m fine with that. If I was driving my girlfriend’s BMW M3 you’d ask me if I want a date.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        DenverMike….Theres something so cool about a lifted 4×4..done right.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Around here almost all the lifted trucks I see are driven by high scool and college age kids. But anyway ranting against trucks is silly.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ MikeAR… Couldn’t agree more. If your okay putting gas in it, so be it.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        @MikeAR- No, I will NOT get over myself.

        The road is meant to be SHARED, not HOGGED by these truck-driving S.O.Bs!

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        @DenverMike- Actually, I hate BMW drivers too.

        Basically, anyone who flaunts the rules of the road in order to inflate their ego (and make their penis look bigger), automatically draws my ire.

        They should be glad that I don’t keep a weapon handy.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        MikeAR – around here the diesel boys love to turn up the fuel for “more power”. They tinker with the boost. Maybe rechip the ECU. Also once a diesel truck like that has alot of miles on it – it can smoke. Alot. Listen – I have no trouble with diesels – I plan to buy one next time ’round. I live in a semi-rural town where the big diesel truck is a trophy vehicle for some guys like Lambos are probably the trophy vehicle in South Beach Miami. My town’s demographics might not match your town’s.

        Like NulloModo said – it’s not the vehicles as much as what the owners do with them. Yeah – and the motorcycles with loud pipes and the subwoofer cars. It’s how they drive them, whether they want to be obnoxious. It’s not JUST them either.

        I drove home the past few days with the windows open b/c the weather cooled off a bit finally. Turned off the stereo b/c at times I couldn’t hear it in traffic b/c of the loud pipes, subwoofer cars and folks taking full advantage of their 0-60 times in a 35 mph speed zone (in other words – what is the point?).

        Not the whole trip but some of it.

        Got home and opened up the house windows only to have the boys down the street get out their dirt bikes without ANY muffler apparently and barn-storm around the neighborhood for an hour or more. YAY!

        Closed up the house and turned on the a/c again for my bride. Went out into the garage, put in my earplugs and sanded on my old van to get it ready for a paint job. Can’t hear the dirt bike over the air sander and air compressor… GRIN!

        As our town gets more crowded I expect they’ll be more enforcement of the noise ordinances which currently are only brought out for especially heinous offenders. ;)

  • avatar
    Ion

    GM needs to put money into their pickups the Silverado feels archaic in comparison to the F-150 and the RAM.

  • avatar
    Invisible

    Sorry, that grill is too wimpy and small. The new Ford grill is going to be at least 6 feet tall. Come on GMC, get r done

  • avatar

    “environmentalist groups on the warpath”

    Nice dogwhistles to the mouthbreather set.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    A truck is a necessary tool for us car guys. We go to swap meets, car shows, etc. We are always on the lookout for parts and cars, and we more often than not stumble across something that we weren’t even looking for, but we just have to have it.
    For example three years ago we were at chryslers at Carlisle, and my son saw a 60 desoto that he wanted, so we bought it, hooked it up to the ram and brought it home to Ohio. Not long before that I was at a swap meet near my home and found a 392 hemi and bought it.
    I didn’t have anything to put it in at the time, but I always wanted one and whether or not I ever ended up actually putting it into anything I knew it would look cool sitting in my barn. My son decided that he wants it under the hood of the desoto, so that is where it will end up.
    Hardly a week goes by that I don’t come across something that I bring home. I guess it takes a car guy to understand the importance of having a truck

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      You are correct. I don’t currently own a truck and wish I did each time these gearhead events come along. I have one I can borrow though on short notice. I keep it running, my friend pays for the parts. The Desoto definitely warrants a big tow vehicle. The engine – no really a truck requirement. I recnetly brought home Model-A engine and the front half of the frame, no suspension. Brought it home in my little tin can trailer (Brenderup 1205S) and later carried it to my Dad’s house over the hills and 100 miles away. Pulled it with a four cylinder engine too. It’s jobs like this that makes me lament the passing of the small truck in the USA (Luv, small Tacoma, small Ranger, etc). Not much of a family vehicle but fine for little weekend jobs. The safety margin the larger trucks offer is hard to ignore though on towing jobs.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @nutcase. I drive a truck, my wife drives an suv. We also have a boat that I bought in 1988, and it has been used every summer except for maybe two over a 23 year period.
    Our house is 1200 square feet, by far the smallest on our street, which is lined with homes between 2000-2500 square feet. The way I look at it I am doing more for the environment than my neighbors.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States