GM finally upgrades Silverado, Sierra

Bored carbuyers stalled pickup sales as Ford, Ram and imports trucked away market share.

By Jason Notte Dec 13, 2012 2:10PM

Correct caption/Credit: The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado debuts in Pontiac, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 ( Paul Sancya/AP Photo)Car buyers have no problem with an old reliable pickup truck in the driveway or garage. A dated model on a new car lot gets much less love.

General Motors (GM) found that out the hard way this year, which is why its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are getting a much-needed facelift for their 2014 models. The new models announced Thursday are meaner looking, sleeker and quieter, but just as brawny under the hood. GM starts its new offerings with a 262-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 with increased towing capacity before kicking it up to a 325-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 with the improved fuel efficiency of GM's muscly Camaro and Cadillac models that far outpaces the current generation's gluttonous 22 miles per gallon on the highway.

A 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 376 horsepower rounds out the new lineup that GM hopes will pull its truck sales out of the ditch. GM's overall truck sales dropped 3.8% in November and are at near-flat 0.9% growth for the year. The Silverado's sales were down more than 10% last month as Ford's (F) 10.6% of the overall truck market eclipsed GM's 10.4% share. Sales of Ford's F-Series trucks are up 11.6% this year, while sales Chrysler's revamped Ram pickup line have accelerated by more than 20%.

The pickup truck market is a bit of a conundrum in this regard. GM notes that pickup owners are reluctant to part with their vehicles as it is, but the economic downturn helped increase the average age of a pickup truck on U.S. roads to 10.4 years. When that decade ends, those pickup buyers don't necessarily like to see new models that look similar to the old beaters they just turned in.

Ford discovered this the hard way two years ago with its light Ford Ranger pickup. Ford made its last major change to the Ranger in 1998 and only tweaked the line for the next 13 years. Sales fell from nearly 350,000 in 1999 to just 55,000 in 2010. They rebounded slightly to 71,000 in 2011, but only because it was the only way loyal Ranger owners could say goodbye after Ford discontinued the line.

The Silverado and Sierra have had similar problems since their last overhaul, and the recession didn't help. When the 2007 line was introduced in 2006, GM's combined sales of the two pickups hit nearly 850,000. That number plunged to 438,000 at the height of the recession in 2009, but even last year's 564,000 is a steep drop from those first-year highs.

Right now, GM has a nearly 140-day supply of its pickups on U.S. lots. That's well over the two-month supply automakers consider ideal and is a damning statement about how much demand for GM's trucks has slipped since increasing more than 10% last year.

Meanwhile, even automakers beyond the Detroit Three are taking a bigger share of the pickup market while GM is stuck in neutral. Toyota (TM) truck sales are up 19.5% on the year as the Japanese automaker continues to gain momentum. Meanwhile, Nissan (NSANY) is moving 19.6% more trucks than it did in 2001, while Honda (HMC) truck sales have advanced 18.9%. Honda and Nissan's combined share of the truck market still doesn't match GM's, but GM is in no mood to let one of its biggest strengths become a weakness.

The company is still digging out from its bankruptcy and ensuing government bailout in 2009. Despite its recent woes, the Silverado is still the No. 2 selling automotive line in the land. It's second only to the Ford F-Series and is outpacing the Ram by more than 140,000 vehicles year to date. By comparison, that disparity is greater than the number of Jeep Grand Cherokees (138,000) Chrysler sold during the same span.

America still loves itself an old pickup; just not when it's investing in a new one.

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Dec 13, 2012 5:34PM
I am still mystified why GM sells both Chevrolet and GMC trucks when they are all but identical to each other, yet they dump popular nameplates liked Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and even Saturn.
Dec 13, 2012 6:50PM
My 02 Z-71 Avalance has over 300,000 miles on it. and I have only replaced the Altenator, brakes and battery, and tires. Doesn't use or leak anything.  Still has original spark plugs and gets 18 mpg.  What a TRUCK!
Dec 13, 2012 9:45PM
I have owned nothing but Chevy trucks since I started driving. I have had a 1998 S-10 that still got 30+MPG after 200K miles. I owned a 2002,2004,2007 and now a 2011 Silverado. The 2002 was by far the best out of that grouping. I like the 2011 but the powertrain has massive shifting problems that GM says is "normal" and it was the "way it was designed"...Really taking your foot off the gas in stop and go traffic then feathering back into the gas the truck should slam? Taking your foot off the gas to make a turn and then feathering back into the gas the truck should shutter and feel like it is stalling? I called and e-mailed GM they put a "note" in my file in case they come up with a fix after I'm out of warranty. The dealership was a complete joke they told me that a 6 speed transmission is designed to shift harder than a 4 or 5 speed, I may not be a gearhead but lets be real.
     I told GM if they don't fix this truck and I have to drive it for the next 4  years acting this way I will never come back....that was 9 months ago...Ford here I come. You just threw away a lot of money from me GM way to go......

Dec 14, 2012 10:43AM
When is GM gonna wake up and start offering small, affordable diesels in their trucks? Soooo many are asking but they aren't delivering.
Dec 13, 2012 7:27PM

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that you now have to add a fluid "DEF" Diesel Exhaust Fluid to make the diesel line meet the feds emmissions. Many owners are having problems with that and many more are switching to the truck lines offering a diesel that does not need this fluid in the exhaust. I am a Chevrolet guy and own a Duramax 3500LT Crew cab dually to pull our RV. I am considering a new truck and it appears it will not be another GM as I refuse to add a fluid to the exhaust system to meet a fed  needs. If the company cannot solve this problem itself and not force the owners to continually add something to make it run I will refuse to make another purchase from them.

Sorry GM but you have a giant fail on this emmission problem and making the consumer continually make purchases of a fluid or anything extra other than fuel is a big negative in your column.

Dec 13, 2012 11:10PM
Dec 13, 2012 7:38PM
love my 08 Silverado, would not trade it strait across for a new Ford or Dodge. Only trade will be for a new Chevy in a year or two.
Dec 14, 2012 2:38AM
My 2007 Silverado has 38,000 miles on it. Yea i dont have a Guess at that rate i could die with this truck. Im 56.
Dec 14, 2012 10:04AM
I don't care what they do to the trucks I won't buy another new GM vehicle.  Ever.  GM has slipped to the point that they now have the worst dealer support out there.  I've been a dedicated GM customer for the 40+ years that I've been buying new cars and trucks and, while there were bumps in the road with dealers over the years it's so bad these days that a warranty is worthless.  My GMC 3500 Dually with the Duramax/Allison package wasn't cheap but it was a decent package and what I had hoped to be something that would last me a long time.  It's totally unreliable because of engine issues and costs Thousands of Dollars (that I can't afford as a retiree on a fixed income) every time I have to get it fixed.  Stay away from GM trucks if you want customer support. 
Dec 14, 2012 2:34PM
Why are these morons slamming an American Made product?  Are they trying to spin whatever it is they are spinning?  I have driven Fords, Dodges and Now own a Chevy Pickup since 2002.  The cars no matter what Brand have gotten better and better thru the years.  And seem to last longer.  And bottom line:  another American family benefits from us buying American made Cars. 
Dec 14, 2012 11:10AM
I think Chevy makes a good looking truck, but the GMC badge is over priced
Dec 13, 2012 9:49PM
Hahaha, a guy below said the Dodge Ram 1500 was the best truck on the market today! lol He's so cute. I'll bet his daddy helped him type that.
Dec 14, 2012 1:55AM
Good question about GMC trucks and Chevrolet trucks,,,,,,,,,,,,,here's the answer........GM needed to give Buick (very big in China) a truck ( there is NO Buick truck) they let GMC live so that Buick dealers, USA and abroad, could offer trucks.
Dec 14, 2012 10:21AM
The differences between Chevy, Gmc and even Cadilliac are there, if you haven't driven them all it is a little hard to tell.  For example, the engine in the basic Tahoe is usually a 5.3, in my Esclalde and my wifes GMC Danali they are 6.2.  The caddy is tuned differently and is quicker then the Gmc.  My caddy is full time AWD, not true on the Tahoe or most of the GMC's.  The spring rates, dampers, sway bars are all different from truck to truck.  Even with her top of the line GMC the difference is easy to feel.  Dash layouts and features vary as well.  One of the funniest was the rear power lift hatch on both our trucks.  I was helping a person load something into the back of her Chevy tahoe and when I finished, I was looking for the power close button.  The person manually shut the hatch and looked at me like I was nuts.  Duhh on my part.  Most of the Tahoe options are standard on the GMC and most GMC options are standard on the Escalade.  Just like in the 1950's GM wants to keep it's customers in a GM brand as they get older and more successful so they need the step up line-up.  As for getting rid of Olds, Pontiac and Saturn (plus Hummer), the only one I'll miss is Pontiac.  The GTO was a nice, but boring looking idea with a lot of possibilities, and I would have loved to see a new Trans am based on the Camaro.  Pontiac was also a good step between Chevy and Cadilliac.  Olds being popular is an exageration no matter what retirement community you live in, Hummer was silly to start with (and I love trucks), and Saturn might have had some potential although except for the SKY (which is still just a Pontiac Solstice) I can't think of one memorable car.  Good possibilities for a low buck import fighter though. 
Dec 14, 2012 2:33PM

Why NOT upgrade?  WE PAID FOR IT!!!


Just saying...




A dis-satisfied customer and voter...


Dec 13, 2012 9:19PM
That's why DMAX laid me off four years ago.
Dec 14, 2012 10:25AM
i have a 96 cprice wagon with 260.000 miles, a 99 yucon with 197.000. one alt. one rear axle. nuff said
Dec 14, 2012 1:18PM
Recently had an injector issue on my 04 dura max...tried to get GM to help out..was given a number, and my call was answered by customer service, in THE PHILLIPINES.....SO MUCH FOR GM BEING A GREAT AMERICAN TREASURE,,,btw..they turned down any help on my injector problem....this is my last GM truck...I've had 4 duramaxs....hello Dodge.....
Dec 14, 2012 1:20PM
Look at resale value. Argument over.
Have owned more than 100 GMs; nevermore.
Current Government Motors is failed business design and quality is waning (mostly from federal regulations). Thanks for the bailout raping. (Do your own research; lame stream media lied.) Thanks for killing SAAB, the safest car ever engineered.
Ford trucks when you want long duty--not their cars.
Import driving machines when you want to drive somewhere year after year.
Dec 14, 2012 1:19PM
I had silverados from 1986 to 2001 and I had 4 new ones spent most of my days off in the service dept of the chevy dealer. I switched in 2005 to a toyota pickup and had it 5 years and never saw the service Dept. I traded for a 2011 Toyota Tundra and I still havent seen the inside of the service dept. I dont care what chevy owner says, you arent going to come close to having a reliable toyota.
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