General Motors wants to outsell Ford Motor's F-Series pickups, and the first steps in that assault are in production at Silao, Mexico, headed for U.S. dealerships in June.
GM's current trucks are the oldest on the market among the Detroit 3, and they've carried large incentives to keep their sales up. The remade GM pickups have new engines, bodies, interiors and features.
The Silverado, previewed here for media, is among 13 new or significantly updated vehicles from Chevy this year. But, "Not all introductions are created equal. Silverado is the kingpin for us," said Chris Perry, head of Chevy's global marketing.
The Silverado and Sierra will be available only as crew-cab models for about two months, before extended- and regular-cab models start reaching showrooms.
Texas dealers get 40% to 50% of the Silverado crew-cabs in the first two months. Texas is the single-biggest pickup market -- accounting for one of every six new pickup sales -- so a powerful Texas presence is key to a truck's image and credibility.
Crew-cab pickups have four full-size doors and carry five or six large adults. They now make up about 60% of all pickup sales, and automakers say they often are used as family transportation and are bought with high-profit options.
Chevy is keeping the starting price for the crew-cab at last year's level, $32,710 including $995 shipping, though it has more features, more power and better mileage.
That is, however, a V-6, two-wheel-drive base model. More typically equipped versions shown here were in the mid- to high-$40,000 range.
The new pickups, which GM internally calls K2XX, also will be the foundation for new versions of Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, and the mechanically similar GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade variants. Those are due the first quarter next year as 2015 models.
Profits on those are greater than on pickups.
Timing is in GM's favor. The economy is improving enough to trigger more home building and other enterprises that use trucks, and those workers often drive trucks of their own.
The average age of trucks is about 11.3 years, and interest rates on new-vehicle loans are low.
Through April, industrywide sales of full-size pickups are 20.2% ahead of last year. Overall new vehicle sales are up 8.5%.
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