Throughout the presentation, GM officials emphasized their "true truck engines."
The most obvious changes for the new GM trucks are more dramatic styling and revamped, upgraded interiors. Inside, an 8-inch touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard on most models catches up to what designers are doing inside cars and SUVs.
That's what truck buyers want, says Luke. "Don't let the work boots fool you. Truck customers are among the most discerning and demanding in the business."
Less obvious but arguably more important changes in the new trucks:
A chassis redesigned for less noise, more comfort, better handling. Reuss says pickups often are used as family vehicles and should be refined enough to fill that role gracefully, as well as able to handle truck tasks.
Changes to the cargo bed, the "business end" of a pickup. Beefier tie-down hooks are rated to restrain 500 pounds each. The tailgate's easier to operate. Available LED lights under the bed rails should quickly win approval from truckers who have to wrangle cargo at night or when the bed's covered.
Crew-cab trucks will offer 61/2-foot-long beds for the first time, as well as the industry standard for crew-cab trucks, 51/2 feet.
Bigger rear doors on crew-cab models so rear seat users can enter and exit more easily. GM had fallen well behind rivals in rear-seat room and ease of use.
The extended-door cab models get conventional, front-hinged rear doors. They should be more convenient than the rear-hinged back doors on current extended-cab models. Those require the front door to be open before the rear door can be operated.
The list of improvements in the new trucks is long, which could compound GM's task of trimming a glut of 2012 and 2013 trucks, 183 days' worth at the end of November, or more than twice the normal supply.
If GM fire-sales those to make way for these upgraded 2014s, it could end up cutting into the pool of potential buyers for the new trucks. Many will buy the current-generation trucks at big discounts rather than gambling that the new ones will be enough better to justify higher prices.
The overstock's threat to the new models "is unfortunate," Lindland says. "It would be catastrophic if these (2014s) don't sell well. You can't overstate how important these trucks are to GM."
GM built up inventory intentionally to ensure it wouldn't run short during production downtime to revamp factories for the 2014s. But it overshot as rivals began heavy discounting, soaking up truck buyers, just as GM was trying to wean itself from huge pickup incentives in order to boost profits.
An analysis by Edmunds.com shows that Chrysler raised Ram incentives 48.9% in the year that ended in November. Ford incentives on the F-Series rose about 1%. GM cut its incentive spending on pickups 4.8%. Edmunds.com says that even with the new incentives, it still took an average 95 days to sell a Ram, as of November. An F-Series took 81 days. GM pickups sat for 101 days.
GM says it'll go back to heavier discounting to help dealers clear the lots of unsold Silverados and Sierras.
Analysts such as Toprak say the simplest solution, but one out of GM's control, would be an improving U.S. economy. "A lot of buyers of full-size trucks are small businesses, and they're not feeling a recovery yet."
But if the housing market continues to creep back, and other signs of recovery are visible, "pent-up demand, and businesses generally feeling better about things, will bring a lot more into the market for $40,000 trucks," Toprak says.
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