Chevy goes to extremes to boost Silverado sales

The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss, one of three new trims, treks through an off-road course. Photo credit: MICHAEL WAYLAND

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JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — General Motors will look to the bookends of its 2019 Chevrolet Silverado lineup to boost sales and attract new buyers.

GM has restructured its next-generation full-size pickup lineup — arriving at dealerships now — including adding three new trims in an effort to expand its market share.

“We do really well in the heart of the market. That’s where we tend to overachieve,” Hugh Milne, Chevrolet Silverado marketing manager, told Automotive News during a media event here last week. “We have not done as well in the lower end, and we do OK on the high end, but we can do better.”

Milne said he’s “relatively bullish” on both ends of the market with Chevrolet’s new grouping of trims broken into “high value” (Work Truck, Custom, Custom Trail Boss), “high volume” (LT, RST, LT Trail Boss) and “high content” (LTZ, High Country).

Pricing gap

With the outgoing Silverado, Chevrolet hasn’t been able to command the pricing of Ford’s luxury pickups and has allowed Ram to make gains at the lower end of the market.

Currently, Chevy’s high-volume models account for 50 to 60 percent of retail sales, while the high-end LTZ and High Country account for about 20 percent, and the lower-end models make up the rest.

Chevrolet’s average transaction price for the Silverado 1500 was $43,834 in 2017, according to Cox Automotive, about even with the Ram 1500’s $43,846 but well below the Ford F-150’s $45,668. The full-size pickup segment, excluding heavy-duty models, averaged $44,309.

With the updated trucks, “We’ve made a lot of conscious decisions to get to a better price point,” Milne said, adding that he’s particularly optimistic about the roughly $55,000 High Country trim, which enters its second generation after being introduced in 2013.

Photo credit: MICHAEL WAYLAND

Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader, said offering eight distinct trims is a smart move for Chevrolet, as buyers want to differentiate themselves.

“I think they’re thinking in the right way, which is, ‘Let’s offer something for everyone,’ ” Moody said.

The new trims include two Trail Boss models that Milne expects to grow to between 10 and 15 percent of Silverado sales and become a “little bit of a halo” for the rest of the pickup lineup.

Trail Boss models offer off-road features, including a 2-inch suspension lift and the Z71 Off Road Package with a locking rear differential, skid plates, Rancho shocks, 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires.

“For a lot of people, that’s going to draw them in … and they may very well leave with an RST or something else,” he said.

GM is offering six powertrain configurations with six engines and three transmissions — six-, eight- and 10-speed — for the 2019 Silverado and its cousin, the GMC Sierra.

The 2019 Silverado models with V-8 engines, which make up about 90 percent of sales, are arriving in dealerships now. Other engine variants will follow, including a new Duramax 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine in early 2019.

Fine line

Prices for the 2019 Silverado range from $29,795 for a Work Truck with a long bed to $54,495 for the High Country. The high-volume LT trim starts at $38,395, down as much as $700 from the current model. All of those prices include shipping.

By comparison, 2018 models sold for between $30,195 and $53,495, with shipping.

GM has a finer line to walk on pickup pricing than Ford. Chevy can’t go too high, lest it cut into Sierra sales, or go too low and risk cannibalizing sales of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups — a segment in which Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles don’t yet offer products.

GM hasn’t announced pricing for the 2019 Sierra, which the company has said will be more differentiated from the Silverado than in previous generations.

“GMC is not our competitor,” Milne said. “We’re two divisions with different personalities.”

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