New GM Trucks Gain Traction Against Competitors In Slippery Market
By: Mike Levine Posted: 06-11-07 02:00 PT
© 2007

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Update #1: 06-12-07 09:49 PT

Corrected an error on page 4 reporting the rear axle ratio on the 2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty SuperCrew 4x4. The F-250 only comes with a 3.73 rear axle ratio, not a 4.10 as originally reported.

Halfway through 2007, General Motors is expecting this year will mark the end of the market contraction in full size pickup sales, and that buyers will continue to keep Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra sales strong because of their overall value, performance, and capabilities in the segment versus the competition.

“We see sales over the course of the remainder of the decade inching their way back up to 2004 levels, plus growing incrementally,” says Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of market and industry analysis.

In 2004 over 2.4 million half-ton, 3/4-ton, and 1-ton pickups sold, compared to Mr. Ballew’s estimates for the segment to finish at around 2.2 million units in sales volume by the end of December. “This year we’ve seen the biggest downward pressure from the slowdown in housing and gas prices, but by 2010 we predict housing will recover”, he says.

Full size truck sales have held up relatively well, though, compared to sales of sport utility vehicles, because most pickup buyers, like contractors and builders, have specific needs that can’t be met by other vehicles, according to Mr. Ballew. “Last month 75% of GM buyers trading in their full size truck stayed in a full size,” he says.

SUV owners driving traditional truck based utilities, though, are fleeing the market because they have a different set of needs that can be met by other vehicles. Mr. Ballew says, “40% to 50% of SUV owners trading their SUV for a new vehicle migrated to something else,” such as GMC’s new car-based Acadia crossover.

But in the second largest automotive segment - just behind midsize cars and accounting for about 16% of total vehicle sales - GM is extremely pleased about the reception its new GMT900 full size pickups are receiving with buyers.

“We’re off to a very good start with the new pickups. This year we lead the full size category by 100,000 units,” says Mr. Ballew, based on combined sales of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light and heavy duty trucks plus Chevrolet Avalanche, which has sold 60,000 units year to date. The increased sales numbers have also bumped up GM’s overall portion of the full size market by almost 3 points in 2007, to around 41%. In May its share was even higher, at 43.1%. Chevrolet Silverado also outsold the perennial bestseller, Ford’s F-150, last month, 63,790 units to 61,939 units. Mr. Ballew says the automaker will be happy with anything above 40% market share.

The biggest surprise - sales of heavy duty diesel pickups. GM expected them to be softer this year but Mr. Ballew says, “One thing we’re seeing is diesel penetration. It’s going up dramatically while gas has shrunk substantially.”

All the heavy duty pickup truck manufacturers were required to meet strict new emissions requirements that went into effect on January 1 this year for haulers with compression ignition engines under the hood. This meant adding new components and technology, like diesel particulate filters and active ‘regeneration’ to burn off trapped soot. Oil companies also had to play their role by producing new ultra low sulfur diesel fuel that can be consumed by these engines without gumming up the new exhaust cleaning equipment.

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