This article is part of the GM Authority Mailbag series, where the GM Authority Crew features and replies to your questions, comments, and observations.
The following comes to us from Michael C:
“After watching GM’s dog-and-pony show that was the unveiling of the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, I realized just how big of a crock the GMC brand really is. I mean I already knew GMC has no unique products and is “differentiated” from Chevy by new grilles, lights and logos, along with a catchy (but baseless) tagline (Professional Grade, eh?). Where to begin? How about GM’s presentation that made a piss-poor attempt to present the different between Chevy and GMC. Take Mark Reuss’ comments during the presentation, breaking down the types of customers buying Silverado and Sierra.
Humor me by reading the transcription of Mark Ruess’ speech: “At Chevrolet and GMC, our goal is simple: to meet the specific needs of a broad customer base: no compromises, not for our customers, and certainly not in our trucks.
But let me correct myself: it’s really not a three-trucks strategy, it’s in fact a six-truck strategy — three sizes off of two brands.
Because in addition to different needs, customers also have different styles and personalities. And they want completely different styles and personalities from their trucks. They also want their brand to be a reflection of who they are and what they stand for. The key is to provide clearly differentiated trucks that appeal to different customers and then deliver an equally distinct retail experience and service experience in our showrooms. The new Sierra and Silverado are more differentiated than ever before in our history, in unique features and materials, in their standard content, and in their design and details. These are two strong and distinct brands, each one appealing to a different kind of customer.
Silverado customers want a truck that’s honest, hardworking, and dependable — just like they are. One they can pass on to their children. This has been the Silverado mission for generations and we will not waiver from it.”
So what GM seems to be implying here is that Sierra buyers aren’t “honest, hardworking, and dependable”, and they don’t want to pass on their Sierras to their children. I call BS on that. But that’s not even the end of it:
“But the Silverado won’t take on the competition by itself alone. Sierra customers are the people that others turn to for expertise and advice. They know that the devil is in the details, and believe that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. So, they look for things that make them better at what they do. And they are willing to pay more for premium products with distinctive craftsmanship and the content that they want. For these customers, we’re using professional-grade engineering to carve out an all-new 2014 GMC Sierra.”
And here, the implied message is that Silverado owners don’t pay attention to detail, and don’t believe that “if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well”. And what the heck is this “professional-grade engineering” business? Let’s call it for what it is: the same engineering that’s on the Silverado, with different front/rear ends and a higher quality interior materials that could just as easily be found on the Chevy.
Then there’s this: “The 2014 GMC Sierra offers our customers things no other pickup truck has, like projector headlamps, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and safety alert seat. Plus, a host of other features, all built with an attention to detail and quality materials like real aluminum in the interior. That’s on top of the refinement of a premium cabin that’s exceptionally quiet and extremely comfortable.”
So here’s my question: why can’t the Silverado offer features like projector headlamps, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and safety alert seat? Why can’t the Silvaerdo, or a trim level of the Silverado, be built with “attention to detail” and quality materials?
The answer is clear: it can. And it should.
But rather than doing the right thing and killing off GMC, GM is hell-bent on creating a purely artificial separation between the two trucks. What’s even more concerning to me is that GM doesn’t even begin to understand its truck customers; it seems to think that Silverado buyers are rednecks who are “good ol’ boys”, while Sierra customers are a discerning bunch… like foremen on construction sites? Puh-lease!
Ford does it all with the F-Series by having different trim levels and different price points; some have “quality” materials on the inside… some don’t. There’s no reason GM can’t do the same with the Silverado while sparing everyone the superfluous and artificial differentiation BS that is the Sierra. Because everyone knows that the Sierra is still a rebadged Silverado.
Michael — now that you point it out, those statements do make for an odd bifurcation of truck customers. That said, I’m not convinced that Silverado/Sierra customers are mutually exclusive; in other words, do Silverado customers openly reject the presence of quality interior materials, or do they simply not care about them as much as Sierra buyers? Or, would buyers of the new Sierra have otherwise purchased a Silverado if aluminum were available in its cabin? That seems to support your “artificial separation” argument. And with that, I’m still left scratching my head at the “honest” aspect of GM’s unveiling presentation for the Silverado. Is “honest” code for “simpleton”? Are Sierra buyers somehow more sophisticated or complex, and less “honest”? That does, indeed, seem like a weak foundation on which to separate customers.
Ultimately, the argument for GM’s two-brand approach is that The General can’t serve the market as effectively with one brand. And that makes sense on the surface, until one realizes that the F-Series still outsells both the Silverado and Sierra combined… which makes me (personally) question GM’s dual-brand strategy.
With that, I’m very curious to open this discussion up to the GM Authority army, and ask what it thinks. So, let’s keep it civil in the comments, folks.