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DETROIT — General Motors is giving its big pickups a makeover.
The company unveiled versions of its top-selling Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra on Thursday, aiming to get them to showrooms by late spring or early summer.
Timing is good. Truck sales are up after a five-year slump.
And the new pickups replace models that were last revamped in 2007.
That means GM dealers are offering pickups that are dated compared with newer Fords and Chryslers — and that is hurting sales.
GM says the 2014 trucks should put the company back in front. The trucks look a little more aggressive and aerodynamic.
They will have quieter cabs, and updated steering, suspensions, and brakes, GM says.
Gas mileage and pricing of the trucks was not released, although GM North American President Mark Reuss says customers will be surprised by the prices. A 2013 base-model Silverado costs about $24,600.
Mr. Reuss says the new pickups are 200 pounds lighter than Ford and Chrysler competitors. That will boost gas mileage, although GM won’t say by how much.
The trucks should close the gap with Ford’s F-150 and Chrysler’s revamped Ram, especially if the engines are more powerful and efficient, says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area industry consulting firm.
He was impressed by GM’s attention to detail.
For example, there’s a step built into the rear bumper to gain access to the bed. And doors fit into recesses in the body to make the trucks quieter.
GM offers three revamped engines: a 262-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 that GM says can tow a substantial trailer; a 325-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 that will get better mileage than the 22 mpg the current model gets on highways; and a 6.2-liter V-8 with 376 horsepower.
GM, which has been building Chevy trucks for 95 years, says the new models should hit the market at a good time.
Pickups are starting to sell again. And the average age of U.S. pickups is 10.4 years, GM says.
GM needs to jump on those trends. It is having a tough time selling its current trucks against Ford’s F-150 and Chrysler’s Ram.
Full-size GM pickup sales fell 8 percent last month while competitors saw increases. At the end of November, GM had enough trucks on dealer lots to supply them for 139 days of sales. A 60-day supply is considered optimal.
Mr. Reuss says GM raised incentives to match competitors, and sales in early December are strong.
The company didn’t offer big deals last month and it hurt. He says GM intends to outsell Ford’s F-Series, which is the top-selling vehicle in America, but he wouldn’t put a time frame on reaching the goal.
GM’s new pickups might also provide the Obama Administration an exit ramp for its $50 billion investment in the largest U.S. automaker. The trucks could help boost GM’s share price, encouraging the U.S. government to sell its stake.
The Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups generated an estimated 16 percent of the company’s global earnings before interest and taxes this year and the redesigned versions could boost EBIT by more than $1 billion in 2013, according to a Citigroup estimate.
Even with the recent cloud of high existing truck inventories, the new models hold the promise of giving GM’s investors, the U.S. government included, a long-awaited boost.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.