GM gets boost from smaller pickups, but doubters question for how long

Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:08pm EDT
 
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co's return to selling smaller pickups in the United States has resuscitated a moribund market segment, but new data highlights the risk that the automaker's new trucks are cannibalizing sales of higher-priced models.

Since the launch last autumn of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the midsize pickup segment has grown to more than 2 percent of the total U.S. car and light truck market from 1.4 percent last summer. Some industry executives believe the segment could double annual sales to 500,000 vehicles, which would have been 3 percent of last year's market.

However, beneath the encouraging numbers for the Colorado and Canyon are some less positive trends, said IHS Automotive analyst Tom Libby. Nine of the top 10 vehicles previously owned by buyers of the Colorado and Canyon are GM cars and trucks.

Owners of full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks made up more than 16 percent of the consumers who switched into both smaller GM pickups, according to IHS data.

"That was ominous," Libby said. "There may be a deeper issue here” related to the potential for undercutting sales of higher-margin models.

Libby said it was early in the life of the new midsized trucks and the actual number of consumers who switched from other GM vehicles was small by comparison.

GM officials said the IHS data fails to take into account new buyers and Canyon marketing manager Kenn Bakowski said more than half of all the sales of the new trucks are buyers new to the company. 

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General Motors headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan is seen in this file photograph taken on August 25, 2009.   REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files