Trucks made by General Motors Co. have been on a roll.
Since launching the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in 2014, GM has been the only automaker offering mid-size, full-size and heavy-duty pickup trucks in the U.S. This “three-truck strategy” resulted in nearly 949,000 total truck sales in 2017, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp. That’s more than any other competitor.
Chevrolet plans to attract new buyers as it fends off growing competition, and the redesigned 2019 Silverado plays an important role, Sandor Piszar, marketing manager for Chevrolet trucks, told Trucks.com in an interview during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Here is an edited version of the conversation.
How would you describe the current state of Chevrolet trucks?
If you look across the truck business, General Motors was the leader for the fourth year in a row, and Chevrolet was a major driver in that three-truck strategy. As we see competitors scrambling to catch up and introduce their own mid-size trucks, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I think that speaks to the fact that we know what trucks customers are looking for based on our understanding of the truck marketplace. That’s why we introduced the Colorado when we did. Since launch we’ve already sold over 300,000 Colorados, and we’re continually investing in the space.
What is the short-term strategy for Silverado?
Production for the new truck starts this summer. As we slowly ramp up to ensure quality you’ll see that start hitting dealerships later in the fall. So we’re in a great place. We’ve got production capacity of the current truck, and we’re going to slowly ramp up the new truck and transition in a very logical and measured fashion.
Product life-cycles are being shortened for trucks — is that the new normal?
It’s critically important to maintain a high level of competitive edge, and I think that’s reflected in the product life-cycles you see with trucks and crossovers and SUVs.
Will the shift in consumer preference from cars to light trucks continue?
That’s been a big piece of growth in the segment. There are economic highs and lows, gas price fluctuations, but there’s a core group who always will buy a pickup truck because it’s their only vehicle by choice, or they need a truck to get their work done or to enable what they want to do on the weekends. You can always count on that core buyer.
You’ve seen that growth with new people to the segment. And the 2019 Silverado really is a no-compromise vehicle. You get all the refinement and technology and safety features and luxury that you can find in any car, and you get all of that capability of a full-size truck. Why wouldn’t you want a pickup truck, right?
Why will Chevy offer a diesel engine in the new Silverado?
We think there’s a huge opportunity for a diesel in our light-duty, and the 3-liter Duramax turbodiesel we’ve developed is going to be a winner. It’s a straight-six, so inherently smooth, linked to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s going to have great power and capability as well as efficiency.
Why does Chevy see diesel as an important part of its fuel economy goals?
The Chevrolet portfolio offers more diesel choices than any other manufacturer. We’ve seen a nice win in the example of Colorado. It’s about 10 percent of our production, it’s bringing in a higher-income, higher-education demographic. Thirty miles per gallon on the highway is the most efficient pickup truck in any segment in America.
Is the diesel available across all 2019 Silverado trims?
We haven’t gotten into that, but it will be available on multiple trims and multiple bed-length types.
Does GM have a goal of selling a million pickup trucks annually?
I don’t want to come off that we’re chasing a specific number. Our priority is making sure we deliver the right trucks for customers and quite frankly that we do it in a profitable way for the company. I think you’ve seen a high level of discipline from Chevrolet and General Motors in our go-to-market strategy.
Some of our competitors have really over-indexed on incentive spending to chase a share-growth number. We’re going to do it smartly with a disciplined go-to-market strategy that doesn’t damage our residuals or the opinion of our brand and delivering a high-end level of value in a product that’s executed for what customers are looking for.
Is there room for more mid-sized pickup brands in the U.S. market?
I think if you look back to before we introduced the Colorado, most of the industry experts and competitive naysayers were saying, “It’s stagnant. There hasn’t been an updated truck in nearly a decade, there hasn’t been share growth.” But in talking to customers, Chevrolet saw an opportunity. It’s not that the segment was stagnant because people didn’t want mid-sized trucks — they wanted the right mid-sized truck.
When we brought the Colorado into the marketplace, it really re-ignited the segment. Our sales and share went up, we saw our competitors’ sales go up. We grew the entire segment because you had the right product in the marketplace that resonated with customers. We welcome the competition.
I think you’ve seen us continually invest in this space with powertrain updates and models and special editions because we’ve seen all along that there’s huge opportunity in the mid-sized segment, and it’s kind of gratifying to see competitors trying to catch up with Chevrolet.
The truck market seems to be changing faster than ever.
It is one of the most heated and competitive segments of the auto industry. There’s no doubt.