More than Meets the Eye: GM's Full Size Trucks Get a New Look and a Major Set of Upgrades
By: Michael LevinePosted: 02-06-02 00:01

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In an automotive segment where major changes tend to happen once every decade or so, only four years after their initial launch GM's full size pickups are receiving significant exterior, interior and underbody upgrades.

It's an attempt to hold off increasingly stiff current and expected competition in the Big Three dominated big truck segment. Dodge recently launched its all new Ram and Ford's replacement for the F-150 is expected by 2004. But the imports aren't sitting still either. Nissan will be entering the market for the first time in 2003. Toyota's Tundra is expected to shortly get a set of enhancements, including a crew cab, and everyone is waiting for Honda to show their hand next year.

It may not be his industry, but former Intel boss Andy Grove would call this time for GM and its full size truck lineup a 'strategic inflection point'. Basically, it's a time when the full size truck market is changing so dramatically that future survival depends on anticipating, gathering data and taking action as quickly as possible. GM's action of revamping the Silverado and Sierra so soon after they were introduced involves taking some risks, both in style and engineering, but a lack of action would also entail risk.

Today, GM's full size truck pickups are on a roll and the folks down at Detroit's Renaissance Center are making a bet that the risk and expense of making major enhancements to their best selling vehicles will keep the momentum going next year and beyond.

You only need to look to last year's sales of full size pickups to confirm something special has happened. Something that GM is willing to aggressively fight and take risks to keep. For the first time since 1994 GM's combined Silverado and Sierra sales outsold Ford's F-Series, which still retained the individual title of the best selling car or truck in the United States in 2001.

Much of this turnaround for GM started with the introduction of the current generation Silverado and Sierra pickup in 1999. The trucks are built on GM's highly flexible T800 chassis, arguably the best full size truck platform available. The T800 forms the underpinning of every GM full size truck from a regular cab base level Silverado to the luxurious Cadillac Escalade EXT.

Completing the reinvigoration was the introduction of GM's all new heavy duty pickups in 2001. The Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD both came to market with segment leading diesel and gasoline engines that helped boost GM's sales in the heavy duty class from a comatose 3% market share in October 2000 to a vigorous near 30% a year later.

Gary White, Vehicle Line Executive for GM full size trucks, says that, "(with the current Silverado and Sierra) we have gotten the execution right. Now we need to move from the winning stage to creating and sustaining a dynasty."

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