Trying to compete with the best-selling Ford Ranger has been the eternal struggle for the Chevrolet S-10 pickup. Determining buyer demographics, powerplant choices, model lineup, regional sales distribution, and all the other nuances of marketing a successful product are the responsibilities of not only the brand team, but other GM managers as well. We had a chance recently to quiz some of the GM internals about the S-10, including Dora Nowicki, S-10 Brand Manager, about the company's plans for the compact pickup.
Although second to the Ranger, the S-10 has sold well, with 240,000 units in 1999 and over 200,000 unit sales or better since1996. The Crew Cab is expected to sell between 20,000 and 30,000 units during its first model year; optimistic, but with the projected increase in female buyers, Chevy should easily reach this target.
But who gets what and when largely is determined by two things: geographic areas where the respective brands are targeted, and dealerships that have sold a high number of related brand products. To a lesser extent, but important nonetheless, is that the customer satisfaction index is tied into vehicle distribution. According to General Motors, the general philosophy is to target fertile markets and distribute in large numbers to dealers who have the largest customer base; this gets the most product to the most potential customers fastest. But at some point shortly after the launch, the distribution becomes national and every single dealer is included. Those dealers in areas that cater to a youth-oriented target audience will be among the first to receive the new Crew Cabs, as well as the next-generation S-10 set for launch in early 2003.
Also in keeping with fuel economy, when we asked about using composite boxes on the S-10, we were informed that the steel frame box on the compact pickup still performs a key role in ensuring strength and toughness that pickup customers demand. Engineers and designers are looking into more usage of aluminum components to lighten the vehicle.
Rumors have circulated that the next-generation pickups that will be engineered by GM partner Isuzu have been subjected to delays, but these delays, according to GM truck operations, are false, and the S-10 replacement is on schedule. This partnership with Isuzu is greatly anticipated, and will help provide a global partnership that will bring engineering as well as assembly expertise to the fold, according to Nowicki.
With the new S-10 Crew Cab coming up and the redesign not far behind, Chevy's compact pickup has a good chance of catching up, and possibly even passing the Ford Ranger for best-selling compact truck. GM has set many targets for its divisions, and expects them all to be successful. The S-10 should be one of the shining points of light for GM's future.