Interview with GMC Sierra Brand Manager Lorraine Babiar
© 2006 PickupTruck.com
ways, the fullsize pickup market was quite chaotic in 2005 with volatile
fuel prices and wild summer incentives. In other ways, it was quite stable.
Sales for the year between the five manufacturers totaled 2,450,948 units,
according to figures from Automotive News. In 2004, total fullsize pickup
sales were 2,456,656 for a meager difference of just two-tenths of a percent.
remained the sales leader with 901,463 units but sales were off 4 percent
from 2004. Dodge Ram was also down with sales of 400,543 or 6 percent.
Chevy was up 1.1 percent with 705,980 units while sister GMC was up 7.4%
at 229,488 units. Combined, Chevy/GMC bested Ford by about 34,000 units.
Both imports were also up: Nissan 3.7 percent with 86,945 units and Toyota
12.5 percent with 126,529 units.
Big 3 hold over 90 percent of the market share but Nissan/Toyota picked
up nearly a point in 2005. Ford is still the leader with close to 37 percent
of the market while Chevy makes up almost 29 percent. Dodge comes in at
just over 16 percent followed by GMC at nearly 9.5 percent, Toyota slightly
over 5 percent and Nissan at about 3.5 percent.
that the Sierra is based on the GMT 800 platform that came out more than
eight years ago, GMC’s “Professional Grade” campaign
is working quite well for the pickup. Overall GMC sales were down as there
is a definite shift from fullsize SUVs into crossover utility vehicles.
Watching over the Sierra is brand manager Lorraine Babiar. PUTC’s
Mike Magda caught up with her at the Detroit Auto Show to discuss GMC’s
mission within General Motors and try to pry some details about the next
generation GMT 900 Sierra.
Give us the good news about GMC Sierra for 2005
It was another sales record. Sierra was 7.4 percent, so we’ve grown
market share with an aging truck.
How were sales before the summer incentives?
Sierra sales have been strong all year, even before the employee discounts.
(A quick check of sales reports from Automotive News shows GMC Sierra
up 7 percent in May, one month before sales exploded by 28% in June when
the incentive began.) We’ve increased our market share (in fullsize
pickup) by 6/10ths of a percent. That’s really good with an aging
How did the NFL promotion help in 2005?
I think it went really well. It gave us a different look and feel where
people started associating us. NFL is a good combination with Professional
General Motors lost a lot of money in 2005. When analysts and critics
look at the business model, some ask, “Why do you need pickup siblings?”
So why do (consumers) need a Chevy and GMC pickup?
The two markets are different. If you say, “most dependable, longest
lasting” usually the person buying the Chevrolet is looking for
the price point. It’s a different type of clientele that a person
buying a Professional Grade truck. I think the person buying a Sierra
would be better educated, a skilled tradesman or a white-collar worker.
We have the Sierra Denali that Chevy doesn’t have. The trim levels
and how we put our packaging together are different than Chevy. If GM
didn’t have Sierra, I think they could end up losing sales to Dodge
or any of the imports. It’s always Chevy vs. Ford, but in a lot
of ways you could say GMC vs. the imports and Dodge.
Sierra/Silverado sales last year combined beat F-Series, but it’s
very difficult for corporate GM to brag about it because of the split.
Can GM come up with a plan to boast that it beat Ford?
That is one of our key messages over and above GMC. We tell that story
but it never gets published.
Hybrids are making a big splash at the show this year. How’s the
response been to the Sierra hybrid?
I think the response has been very good. We have it fleets and we also
have it in dealerships. We have built the volumes we stated and will continue
to do so. It is gaining in popularity and will continue to be there with
our E85 strategy.
Critics of the vehicle, including PUTC, have a couple problems. First,
when people think “hybrid,” they think of 40mpg. They’re
not going to get that with Sierra hybrid. A practical criticism is the
start/stop; it’s not very seamless. Has there any movement to rectify
When was the last time you drove one?
A year ago.
There have been a lot of improvements made. There is a different behavior
that is unique to the vehicle that takes some time to get used to. And
you understand where GM is at with hybrids. It’s much different
in terms of strategy than Toyota. The segment in which the Prius plays
is already fuel efficient. We’re addressing the highest fuel-consuming
vehicles first: busses, pickups. Obviously it’s a mild hybrid; we
don’t need to debate that. But there’s nobody else out there
with a hybrid pickup, even mild.
The most noticeable trend in pickups is the move to crew cabs. How has
that impacted Sierra?
The crew cab market has increased. As the analysts have said, people will
start moving away from extended cabs. So much so that we’ve added
a base level to our crew cab as a price leader to influence the market
and give customers more of what they’re looking for.
Even with extended cab sales diminishing, in 2006 you’re coming
out with a third wheelbase (119-inch with 69-inch bed) for the Sierra
extended cab. Isn’t that a lot of investment for a declining market?
No, because they meet different customers’ needs. We’re very
aggressive about our sales and we want to keep our eye on the ball. If
that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do. The short
box extended cab has a more sporty look, and if you drop the LQ9 engine
(345-horsepower) in it, it gives you different capabilities for different