In a move reminiscent of rival Ford's actions of a month earlier, General Motors (GM) is delaying the redesign of SUVs and full-size trucks as part of a wholesale review of its product and brand portfolio geared toward building lighter, fuel-efficient vehicles. Instead, it wants to concentrate on fuel-efficient cars. (See: Ford to step up small car production; stalls pickup and SUV production)
Engineers who had been assigned to overhaul such models as the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and Silverado pickup for 2012 are being transferred to other projects, Tom Pyden, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, said yesterday.
The entire US auto industry is suffering as consumers, paying $4 per gallon for gasoline, shy away from heavier vehicles that burn more fuel than lighter, more-compact models. This decision by GM is its second major change this month. CEO Rick Wagoner said on 3 June he would close four factories that build large SUVs and pickups by 2010. (See: GM to sell Hummer SUV brand; close four truck plants)
GM, the biggest US automaker, reported a 37-per cent decline in May sales of pickups, SUVs and vans. Those vehicles, classified as light trucks, are required by US law to travel an average of 22.5 miles on a gallon (mpg) of gasoline. Passenger cars must get 27.5 mpg.
The automaker will continue to work on improvements to current large pickups and SUVs, primarily to make them more fuel efficient, Pyden said. It will extend the life cycle of its current lineup of pickups and SUVs. Those vehicles - known as the GMT900 lineup - include the Cadillac Escalade SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
GM had been studying options for the next Chevy Tahoe, GMC Sierra and other models under the code name GMT10XX. The program has been suspended indefinitely, until GM has a better sense of whether the light-truck market may recover, Pyden said.
GM currently sells eight brands in the US, but earlier this month said it is conducting a strategic review of its iconic Hummer brand, which is saddled with the kind of gas-guzzling image the Detroit automaker is looking to shed. It also said it is closing four truck and SUV plants by 2010 in response to a massive decline in demand for such vehicles this year.
Stricter fuel-economy and pollution regulations are also forcing GM and other automakers to rethink plans for future models. Under rules passed last year, automakers must make their US fleets 40 per cent more fuel-efficient by 2020.
GM has already announced plans to bring the concept electric hybrid car Chevrolet Volt to the consumer by 2010. (See: General Motors to electrify car market in 2010 with the Chevrolet Volt)