General Motors Corp. is preparing to put its full-sized pickup trucks on a severe diet to meet future U.S. fuel economy standards and stay competitive with rival Ford Motor Co., according to several people familiar with its plans.
But, according to a report by Automotive News, GM likely won’t be able to implement an extensive weight reduction program until the just-redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are overhauled again in 2019, according to supplier sources. That is five years after Ford plans to slash at least 700 pounds from its best-selling F-150 pickup as part of a fall 2014 redesign.
More efficient engines and transmissions will help reduce fuel consumption on the big GM and Ford trucks, but the biggest gains are likely to come from shedding weight. The trucks are prime towing vehicles for the RV industry.
Even though GM’s 2014 Silverado and Sierra lost between 250 to 400 pounds as part of a complete makeover this summer, the lightest Silverado still tips the scale at 4,387 pounds.
GM “didn’t go far enough in terms of weight reduction and powertrain improvements” when it developed the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, according to an industry consultant who works directly with the U.S. automakers.
Now, he said, the automaker has no choice, but to “send ‘em to Jenny Craig” — a reference to the popular consumer diet and weight-loss program.
Prior to the 2019 launch of the next-generation Silverado and Sierra, GM is planning a series of rolling changes over the next few years to the trucks, which just went on sale six weeks ago as redesigned 2014 models.
GM will begin to use more lightweight materials such as aluminum and composites, in place of conventional steel, several suppliers said.
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General Motors and Ford Motor Co. should see significant profit growth and gain market share in the next couple years in North America, largely fueled by new large pickups hitting the U.S. market.
The Detroit Free Press reported that GM’s new trucks are preparing to roll out this year and the expectation is Ford replaces the F-150 next year. Large pickups represent the primary tow vehicle for the RV industry.
The two domestic automakers are forecast to outperform the industry and pickups will account for the majority of volume gains until 2015, Itay Michaeli of Citi Research said Wednesday during a call with investors.
Citi expects large pickups to grow from 11.3% of the U.S. market in 2012 to 12.8% in 2015 when the total market is expected to hit 16 million sales and pickup sales will account for 2.4 million of them.
While the current average age of cars on the road is about 11 years old, the truck fleet is two years older.
GM has 41% of the trucks on the road and has the highest segment loyalty, all of which adds up to a strong potential pool of buyers for the new trucks preparing to hit the market. For GM, pickups will account for 27% of the mix by 2015 with about 944,000 sold that year. Ford is projected to sell about 920,000 pickups in 2015, representing 32% of their mix.
It’s good business. Profit margins on trucks are double that of small cars. Michaeli said GM could see a $1.1 billion earnings bump from pickups and Ford could expect $400 million once its new trucks hit the road. Before that, Ford could see some negative pricing as it improves incentives to compete with GM’s new pickups.
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Rising fuel prices have General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC taking a second look at peddling smaller pickup trucks — vehicles that the Detroit Three auto makers abandoned in the U.S. amid weak demand.
The Wall Street Journal reported that GM is planning to revive its Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon in late 2014, and Chrysler is considering a replacement for its Dakota. Both see the vehicles helping them to hit higher fuel-economy targets and to regain market share from Toyota Motor Corp.’s Tacoma, the current top-selling small hauler.
“We believe there will be a growing number of pickup truck buyers in the future that will want fuel economy,” GM North America president Mark Reuss said.”With our new trucks, we will be saying: Here is something really fuel efficient.”
A return represents a risk for Detroit’s auto makers, which haven’t been successful in convincing buyers to downsize to smaller trucks, and which carry smaller profits.
GM halted production of the Canyon and Colorado last August and had no upgrades ready due to its 2009 bankruptcy filing. Chrysler quit making the Dakota in 2011 after years of unimpressive sales. Ford Motor Co. dropped its Ranger pickup in the U.S. in 2011 and hasn’t looked back.
Barclays Capital estimates auto companies earn between $7,000 and $10,000 on each full-size pickup because they command higher prices in dealer showrooms, while midsize trucks bring closer to $3,000 to $4,000 a vehicle.
“The market is small. It is very small. So you have to be careful when you explore the opportunity to get back into it,” said Fred Diaz, chief executive for Chrysler’s Ram truck brand. “One thing we do know, we want a vehicle that has high miles per gallon to help us with our [corporate average fuel] economy needs.”
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Pickup truck sales are expected to outpace the broader U.S. auto market this year helped by a recovering housing market and a slew of new models from the three big U.S. automakers, executives and analysts said on Sunday (Feb. 10).
Reuters reported that revamped models from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC will be on view this week at the Detroit auto show.
Ford and GM are fierce competitors in the full-size pickup segment where profit margins are larger compared to cars. Pickup trucks made up about 11% of the U.S. market last year, well below the historical average of 17%.
“The pickup truck sector is poised to outperform the rest of the market this year,” said Citi analyst Itay Michaeli at a conference of the Society of Automotive Analysts.
Analysts said gas prices were unlikely to surge this year, which would support truck sales. Micheali said that a mix of pent-up demand and new models will drive pickup sales this year.
GM is counting on a new version of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks to show investors and car buyers that the No.1 U.S. automaker is back on track after its $50 billion U.S. taxpayer-funded bailout in 2009.
GM’s new trucks are on view Monday, along with a new RAM 1500 pickup from Chrysler. GM’s arch rival in the pickup truck market, Ford, will tease a concept version of its upcoming F-150 truck Tuesday. The F-150 will be built for the 2015 model year.
“The majority of pickup vehicles on the road are about to be redesigned,” Micheali said. “The product cycle will unleash demand.”
Low incentives, new products and construction sites filled with aging pickups have set the stage for an especially competitive — and lucrative — battle in the one segment the Detroit 3 still dominate: big pickups.
According to an Automotive News report, that’s why the most important new vehicle for General Motors this year is not the Corvette Stingray currently drawing big crowds at the Detroit auto show, but the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado parked nearby.
It’s why Ford Motor Co. made sure to steal some of GM’s auto show thunder by rolling out an unusually early glimpse of the next F-150, more than a year before it goes on sale.
And it’s why Chrysler Group emerged from the show supremely confident after its Ram 1500, re-engineered several months ago, was named North American Truck of the Year.
“It’s a gunfight,” said Fred Diaz, president of the Ram brand. “It’s not a matter of being the newest truck on the market; it’s more a matter of being the best truck on the market.”
The improved trucks, combined with gains in the economy and housing market, are giving the companies’ executives and dealers reason to salivate.
“We’ve got a lot of opportunity with this truck,” said Mark Rowe, general manager of Henna Chevrolet in Austin, Texas, where the Silverado accounts for half of the store’s new-vehicle sales. “It’ll get a lot of people in the showroom. As the overall business climate improves I think people will have the confidence and the motivation to refresh their fleets or buy the family a new vehicle.”
Sales of full-sized pickups this year are expected to outpace overall industry growth for the first time in years, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst with Kelley Blue Book. He said his conservative forecast is for the segment to increase by about 7%, compared with around 5% for overall car and truck sales.
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Nothing stimulates automakers’ enthusiasm more than a mud-splattering pickup truck war.
According to USA Today, anyone cruising the North American International Auto Show floor at Cobo Center here this week will see the evidence: the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, the Ram 3500 heavy duty, and an as-yet-undisclosed surprise from Ford on Tuesday (Jan. 15).
A segment known for intense buyer loyalty, robust profits and bragging over towing capacity has gotten its mojo back.
“We are calling this year the year of the pickup,” said Michele Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds.com.
The segment is fiercely competitive and predominantly domestic, said Rebecca Lindland, director of auto industry research for IHS Automotive.
“It is the one vehicle in the global industry that is uniquely and forever American so bragging rights for pickups has a whole different meaning,” Lindland said. “It’s not just profits. It’s rock ‘n roll, apple pie American.”
While General Motors gave reporters a peak in December of the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, today at the show is their first public exposure.
“From hood to hitch, these are the most refined, best engineered pickups ever,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss. “GM has been a truck engineering leader for more than a century. I think we engineer our trucks better than the others guys do.”
The new Ram 1500 pickup has been on sale since October. The upgraded Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy duties go on sale this spring with more muscular towing capacity.
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Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors – the so-called ‘Detroit Three” – all finished 2012 with strong sales number for all of their vehicles, with pickups in particular witnessing heavy demand.
Fleet Owner reported Chrysler said its U.S. sales in December totaled 152,367 units, a 10% increase compared with December 2011, with sales for the year exceeding 1.65 million units – a 21% jump compared to 2011. Chrysler’s Ram Truck division reported a sales increase of 16% in December, with sales for the year topping 300,928 units; an increase of 17 % compared to 2011.
The company noted its Ram pickup truck recorded its best annual sales numbers since 2007, with sales of the Heavy Duty Ram up 20% and sales of the Light Duty Ram pickup increasing 14%, while sales of the Ram Cargo Van increased 287% in December versus the same month in 2011.
“We also recorded 33-consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth and our strongest annual sales in five years, while seven of our vehicles recorded their best ever annual sales in 2012,” noted Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler’s Dodge division and head of U.S. sales for the company.
According to Fleet Owner, Ford said that its U.S. sales grew across the board in 2012, with cars up 5% and trucks up 2% for the year. Overall, Ford said it ended 2012 with over 2.16 million vehicles sold.The automaker added that its F-Series sales were up 10% for 2012 and that Ford commercial truck sales finished the year up 7% over 2011; marking the best sales year since 2008.
Overall, Ford said it sold 645,316 F-Series units in 2012, with total Ford brand truck sales – including Transit Connect and E-Series – up 2% for the year at 829,477 vehicles sold. Finally, the automaker noted that its December 2012 sales of 214,222 vehicles marks its best December sales month since 2006.
GM noted that sales volume this past December marked its best December month in five years, with deliveries up 5% year over year to 245,733 vehicles.
December was also GM’s best retail sales month of 2012, with retail volume up 38% from November – about double the industry’s estimated increase.
“All four GM brands increased their sales year over year in December and we were strong across the board in cars, crossovers and pickup trucks,” said Kurt McNeil, vp of GM’s U.S. sales operations.
He said December 2012 sales of pickups, vans and SUVs were equal to volumes sold in December 2011, but compared to November 2012, December truck sales increased 52%. McNeil added that year-over-year sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup increased 6%, while sales of the GMC Sierra pickup were up 13% – the highest level of pickup sales for GM since September 2008.
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Fuel prices may may have dipped, but the long-term trajectory for oil prices is firmly upward. Aside from environmental concerns, the price of fuel has a real effect on consumer spending and economic growth.
According to a report by Truck Trend magazine, when fuel was below $1 a gallon, there was little incentive to dramatically improve fuel economy, especially in vehicle segments where utility and capability were the primary considerations, but with prices sitting firmly above $3 and sometimes $4 a gallon, improved fuel economy has become a major purchase consideration and engineering objective in all vehicle segments — including full-size trucks.
For decades, full-size pickups – a key tow vehicle segment for the RV industry – struggled to hit the 20 mpg highway mark even with lower-power entry-level engines. Manufacturers focused on increasing power and torque, while keeping fuel economy relatively static, something that buyers were perfectly happy with. Things have changed considerably in the past three to four years, however, and manufacturers have started looking at fuel economy as well. That shift in priorities has led to a number of developments in the full-size truck market.
General Motors introduced its line of XFE and hybrid fullsize trucks and SUVs models in 2008. Ford followed first with the SFE model and, more recently, with the EcoBoost turbocharged V-6. Chrysler has announced the availability of an eight-speed transmission with the new Pentastar V-6 in the upcoming 2013 Ram 1500, resulting in a forecast EPA estimate of 17 city and 24 highway. Chrysler also appears to be actively testing prototype turbodiesel Ram 1500s, trucks that could break the 25 highway MPG threshold.
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In the search for profits, automakers are finding a lucrative market among would-be urban cowboys: buyers of high-end pickups.
USA Today reported that Chrysler Group will add a second level of deluxe trucks to its Ram light-duty line at the Chicago Auto Show this week, the Laramie Limited, with luxury touches such as loads of stitched leather in the interior and fancy LED interior lighting.
Ford Motor already has five different high-end versions of its F-150 pickup. General Motors’ GMC has one high-end model, the Sierra Denali. All of the makers say the high end of the pickup market has been especially strong.
The full-size truck market divides at about $30,000. Below that level, pickups are commonly bought by construction workers and others who need work trucks. Above are well-heeled farmers, business people and retirees who want trucks for their towing capability — and their style. They typically load up their trucks with options and extras.
“Once the brain jumps over $35,000, $40,000 is not that difficult,” says Mark Williams, editor of PickupTrucks.com.
In 2010, only 9% of pickups sold cost more than $40,000. By last year, that figure had climbed to 13%, says Fred Diaz, CEO of Ram. Things can only get better: “As the economy continues to rebound, I think this segment is going to continue growing,” Diaz says. “I really don’t see a top end to this thing.”
The new Ram will join the Laramie Longhorn, a cowboy-themed rig introduced in 2010 that costs . The Longhorn, which costs upwards of $43,000 in the decked-out crew-cab version., was so successful from the start that Diaz says “dealers were stampeding us to produce more Despite high gas prices, he says buyers are typically using them in place of family cars.
Ford’s five high-end models range from the Lariat, base-priced at $35,010 before delivery charges, to the Harley-Davidson edition at $48,720. Along with fancy paint and badges, the models have urban cowboy comforts such as heated and cooled seats and different colors of ambient lighting.
A Lariat Limited, currently sold out, proved so popular, “we could sell double (the allocation) if we could get them,” says Pete Greiner, who runs Pete Greiner Ford in Casper, Wyo.
Together, Ford’s luxe trucks accounted for about 30% of F-150 sales last year to individual buyers, a figure that has “definitely gone up,” says Doug Scott, Ford’s Truck Group marketing manager. That’s because buyers of high-end trucks generally are more wealthy and credit-worthy, riding through the recession more easily.
General Motors Corp. will invest approximately $275 million to prepare its plant in Fort Wayne, Ind., to build the next generation of Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickup trucks, creating or retaining 150 jobs.
The plant, which currently has 3,400 employees on three shifts, builds the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups.
The investment announced today is the last announcement of the $2 billion GM announced in May 2011 that will create or retain about 4,000 jobs in 17 facilities in eight states over the next 18 months.
“This investment will allow us to continue building award-winning pickups that offer better fuel efficiency than ever before without sacrificing features and functionality,” said Larry Zahner, GM manufacturing manager. “We remain committed to providing customers the utility and capability of our world-class full-size pickups.”
September was a very good month for GM’s full-size pickup trucks, which are key tow vehicles for the RV market. GMC Sierra sales were up 26 percent and Chevrolet Silverado sales were up 36 percent. Sales of GM full-size pickups have increased month over month since July, contributing to a year-to-date market share gain of about one full point.