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GM's New Trucks

We Catch the Summer Reveal of All-New Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra
GM’s leader Rick Wagoner took some time from his work on the turnaround project and the ongoing Renault-Nissan tie-up evaluation to introduce new products critical to GM’s future profitability and success. VehicleVoice contributors Jim Hossack and Stephanie Brinley, from AutoPacific‘s Market Research and Industry Analysis offices, were on hand for a first look. Brinley helps with the overview, while long-time full-size truck owner Hossack tells us what’s missing.

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The current full-size Chevrolet Silverado (image here) and GMC Sierra, developed under GM’s GMT800 program and first introduced for 1999MY, launched to strong reviews and well-deserved praise. Sales increased throughout the lifecycle and combined they outsold their rivals. Even in 2005, GM outsold the Ford F-series by about 80,000 units, according to AutoPacific’s Sales Forecast Service.
The GMT900 pickups offer significant improvements to body, chassis, and powertrain. GM developed them with the eye to improving on every level an already successful truck. We saw them in pre-production form, but didn’t get the chance to drive them. Based on our first look, the trucks will arrive boasting a best-in-class standing. The 1500 series gets to showrooms in November 2006. Heavy-duty (2500 and 3500) models arrive during the first quarter of 2007. Unlike the previous generation, which rolled out over two years, all versions of the GMT900 trucks roll out in five months.
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The Good Stuff
On a bright, hot August morning, dozens of Silverado and Sierras drove up in front of us at the GM Milford, Michigan, proving grounds. Showing off their versatility and working natures, the display trucks towed boats and equipment, hauled hay and horse trailers. The message was clear: Choice and capability. Whatever you need these trucks to do, they can do it. Whatever form you need, they have it. Short beds, medium beds, long beds, crew cabs, regular cabs, extended cabs with a cool new 170-degree opening rear door, all are available from the GM trucks. It was a dizzying array, but all these options keep loyal buyers happy and to prove that GM is dedicated to full-size pickups.
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Under the Bed, Under the Hood
There are five suspension packages and five engines available, with the 5.3L V8 offering fuel-economy helpers including variable valve timing, E85 capability, and the GM cylinder deactivation system. There is a V6, but initially a diesel only for heavy-duty trucks. Most engines launch with the known four-speed automatic transmission, but eventually will get the six-speed automatic now found with the 6.2L V8. GM claims a top towing capacity of 10,500 pounds for light-duty trucks. While this is a best-in-class figure, but time we got back to the office the day of the reveal, Ford had announced that their 2007 F-150 will also be rated for 10,500 pounds.

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These trucks stay true to a live rear axle, appropriate for the application. The 2007MY changes including a new rear leaf spring with a new shock orientation and new rear shock absorbers. The front suspension, a coil-over-shock arrangement, is the same setup as the SUVs.
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New Tricks and Luxury Option Inside
Buyers get to pick an uplevel, luxury-oriented interior (thanks to the SUV siblings) or a more traditional truck interior. Aside from the pickups, there are six SUVs and two SUTs on this platform. Ford’s latest F-150 came with a new level of choice for truck interiors, offering different accent materials and gauge cluster designs for various trim levels. GM takes it a step further with completely different interiors, from dashboard to center console. Interiors offer improved look and feel, with better materials, tighter gaps, and no exposed hardware.
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New convenience tricks include power-down windows in the rear doors of extended cab models, a first in segment. Care was taken to ensure the bench-style front-row setup has almost as much cubby space as the front bucket and center console setup, too. The bed offers three rails and a large variety of available accessories for storing stuff, but does not offer clever cargo pockets like the smaller Honda Ridgeline or Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
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Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra: Distinct Looks
General Motors put more effort into ensuring the Silverado and Sierra look different from one another, and different from their sibling SUVs with this generation as well. Each get their own front-end style, wheel arches, and bed box looks.
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With more dealers, Chevy sells far more Silverados than GMC sells Sierras. But both franchises offer new trucks that look like trucks. Both can be called conservative and competent. They look ready to work and play. GM skipped the temptation to give the trucks an overly aggressive, steroid-pumped attitude.
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Looking for more details? Click for an overview of both trucks, of the GMC Sierra, or of the Chevrolet Silverado.
Jim Hossack, Longtime Truck Owner, Spies Missed Opportunities.
While there is plenty to praise about the new vehicles, I though I’d mention a couple of the missed opportunities.
Where’s the six-speed automatic? Almost all the 2007 Light Duty (1500 Series) versions launch with the carryover four-speed automatic transmission. The new six-speed at launch is available only on the high-price, low-volume GMC Sierra Denali. Others will get the six-speed “soon,” but likely after the launch of the new Toyota Tundra early next year. The current Tundra, Titan and Ram all offer five-speed autos. Too bad GM’s new pickup will not launch with the new transmission.
No spray-in bed liner from the factory. This is a popular option. Not everyone wants it, but many do. Used to be that in-plant VOC emissions prohibited this from being available from the factory, but Nissan has found a way. Not sure how, but they do. Well done Nissan.
Two-Way Tailgate, Please. The Honda Ridgeline isn’t my kind of pickup…but it does have some great features. Among them is a super two-way tailgate. I have three pickups, and I’d like this feature on all of them. No invention required, just follow the Honda lead.
Improved Extended Cab Doors. The Extended Cab access doors are much better than in the prior model: they open a full 170 degrees, solving the “door-locked” entry/egress problem, and they now have a power window that goes up and down like they should. Much better then the latch-type on my GM pickups. The dogs will be pleased. But you still must open the front door before you can open the rear door. And the closing sound is still less than a solid “thunk.” Advantage to the Dodge Ram Quad Cab, although no system is perfect.
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Still Impressed. All said, these GMT900 pickups look great. Very appropriate styling, both exterior and interior. The new Sierra front end looks very Ford Super-Duty-like. Okay by me: that’s a very tough-looking and successful appearance.
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GM has a winner here and their share of segment is certain to go up. Unfortunately, at today’s gas prices, some of the more discretionary half-ton buyers may defect to another segment. Even so, there will be plenty of volume left, and GM will find this a very profitable program.

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