FMW recently talked with Ed Peper, General Motors’ U.S. vice president for fleet, about the company’s re-entry into the high end of the medium-duty commercial truck market. Below is an edited transcript of his interview with Mark Boada, FMW’s executive editor
What are GM’s new commercial trucks?
This year we’ve launched the Silverado 4500, 5500, 6500 conventional medium-duty truck product. We’re really, really excited about this product and about getting back into a segment of the market we haven’t played in since 2009.
What made GM drop out of that market and why did you decide to get back in?
At that time gas prices were significantly higher. We also entered bankruptcy protection in 2009 and there were a lot of things that we were doing as we wound down the company and then started up again. Commercial truck production and sales was a marginal part of the business at that point, but now we’ve come back with an entry we think is best in class.
I think the biggest thing with medium duty truck sales are the adjacent sales you get as a result of selling conventional medium duty products like this. We think there’s probably a 3-to-1 ratio, so for every conventional medium duty truck we sell we’re going to probably sell a van, we’re going to sell a pickup, and we’re going to sell something else. We’re either going to sell a crossover or car, a retail piece, a small business piece, or whatever. The adjacent sales are what make this business case for commercial very attractive.
You said you’re “best in class.” What features make that so?
First of all, we’ve got the Duramax diesel and the Allison transmission powertrain, which are known in the industry as being the best when it comes to heavy-duty and bigger trucks. Secondly, we’ve got tremendous serviceability with the vehicle. We’ve got a special clam-shell hood that opens up so they’re very serviceable which is really, really important.
There are two other things, though: one is the fact that with the 6500 we move up into the 22,900 GVW, where most 5 series trucks stop at 19.5 GVW. So, we kind of have a “tweener” truck in the 6 series segment as well which is a big deal for us. In addition, because we have a straight rail, stainless steel frame, from an upfitter’s standpoint, the ease of upfit on this vehicle will be absolutely phenomenal because there’s nothing on the frame rail that gets in the way to do all the connections they need to do to produce the upfitted truck.
Does the Silverado 6500 have any special features like electronics in electronics and safety equipment?
It does. We offer OnStar vehicle tracking and emergency communications system with this vehicle and that’s a major selling point. With OnStar’s embedded hardware, customers are able to obtain the data they need from these trucks to run their fleet smarter and better, run their routes better, and counsel and educate their drivers about driving smarter and safer, like not braking as hard or driving as fast.