Exclusive: GM planning strict diet for new pickup trucks: sources

Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:03pm EDT
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By Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman and Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) is preparing to put its full-size pickup trucks on a severe diet to meet future U.S. fuel economy standards and stay competitive with rival Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote), according to several people familiar with its plans.

But GM likely won't be able to implement an extensive weight reduction program until the just-redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are overhauled again in 2019, according to supplier sources. That is five years after Ford plans to slash at least 700 lbs (318 kg) from its best-selling F-150 pickup as part of a fall 2014 redesign.

More efficient engines and transmissions will help reduce fuel consumption on the big GM and Ford trucks, but the biggest gains are likely to come from shedding weight.

Even though GM's 2014 Silverado and Sierra lost between 250 to 400 lbs as part of a complete makeover this summer, the lightest Silverado still tips the scale at 4,387 lbs (1,990 kg).

GM "didn't go far enough in terms of weight reduction and powertrain improvements" when it developed the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, according to an industry consultant who works directly with the U.S. automakers.

Now, he said, the automaker has no choice, but to "send 'em to Jenny Craig" - a reference to the popular consumer diet and weight-loss program.

Prior to the 2019 launch of the next-generation Silverado and Sierra, GM is planning a series of rolling changes over the next few years to the trucks, which just went on sale six weeks ago as redesigned 2014 models. GM will begin to use more lightweight materials such as aluminum and composites, in place of conventional steel, several suppliers said.

The moves are designed to help protect what executives have sometimes described as the "crown jewels." These high-volume truck models generate handsome per-vehicle profits of $12,000 or more. Together, the GM and Ford pickups account for nearly 10 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales.   Continued...

A GM sign is seen at a General Motors dealership in Miami, Florida August 12, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria