General Motors is utilizing a new “three-truck” strategy to overcome the competition and escalating CAFE standards. The three truck strategy allows fuel-conscious shoppers in the running for a pickup truck to be directed toward the smaller Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, leaving the larger Silverado and Sierra 1500 for consumers who don’t put such a high priority on fuel economy.
The three-truck strategy is much different than the one employed by Ford, who will boost fuel economy by shaving 700 pounds off their full-size F-150 through the use of lightweight aluminium. The Detroit News sat down with GM’s chief truck engineer, Jeff Luke, to discuss the automakers different strategies and how pickup truck engineers will meet the ever increasing CAFE standards.
Detroit News inquires about why Luke and GM decided to dive back into the mid-size pickup truck segment after abandoning it in North America in 2012. Luke says they identified areas in the segment that could be improved on, and discovered four types of customers the truck might appeal to.
“We’re going to come in with the Colorado and the Canyon with features this segment won’t have. Lane departure warning, forward collision alert, most-versatile box usage, corner-step bumper, and easy lift-and-lower tailgate,” Luke said.
“There are four key segments of buyers who we think will look at us. First, loyalists. Former S10/S15 customers. Next are the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier folks. We think this is a much better vehicle for them. Third, our domestic competitors, Ford and Ram. Their strategy is to try to sell people a larger truck with a smaller engine. We think a lot of customers just don’t want a bigger truck. And the fourth segment is crossovers, a lot of people left the mid-pickup segment many years ago looking for more refinement and safety.”
Ford’s decision to shave extra pounds off the F-150 was mostly due to increasing CAFE standards, which require automakers to meet a 55-mpg fleetwide average fuel economy standard by 2025. Luke says their strategy of going back into mid-size trucks helps them meet CAFE standards, while also providing a positive addition to their product portfolio.
“Each manufacturer is required to meet their specific CAFE standards according to the line-up that they sell. Coming back into the mid-size truck segment, we’re meeting the requirements for their particular size and they are positive for our company line-up,” Luke said.
Luke also added how important brand loyalty is to GM’s truck sales. When consumers are in the running for a sedan, they might look to Asian or German manufacturers first, but will always turn to domestic automakers for a pickup. Luke says he wants to preserve this as much as possible.
“When it comes to trucks, we have strong brand loyalty. For me, it’s a very personal thing to protect this segment. You ensure that customers have quality, reliability and durability. (Trucks) also must be styled extremely well and the features must be purposeful. You can never let your guard down.”
With such vastly contrasting strategies, the truck war between GM and Ford will be interesting to watch in coming years. If Ford’s strategy prevails, it could send GM back to the drawing board. However, if the Colorado and Canyon take off like GM anticipates they will, Ford might look to respond with a mid-size offering of their own.