Survival of the Fittest

Chevy’s Truck Marketshare and EV Pioneer Will Be Key to the Brand’s Outcome

The Chevy Bolt bridges the gap with an EV that is affordable and long range.

Over a century old,  Chevrolet became the best-selling auto brand in the U.S. and the largest contributor to General Motors’ revenues, eventually transitioning from an American icon into a worldwide power brand.  Now, facing competitors that have been around as long as it has, as well as new competition from automakers like Tesla and Rivian, GM knows it will have to fight to maintain its brand legacies and stay in its position as the nation’s largest legacy automaker.

With full-size pickups currently representing a $125 billion industry and comprising about 80 percent of the U.S. market, it is vital for GM to make sure its Chevy Silverado and its GMC Sierra continue to hold their share of the market, which combined, represent a 37 percent share, according to Forbes economists.

The strategy for Silverado has been giving customers a lot of choice with  regular, extended, and crew-cab styles available with short, standard or long beds.  There are five engine choices: including a V-6, a turbocharged four-cylinder, two V-8s, and a Duramax diesel 3.0-liter inline-six.  Additionally, there are eight main trim levels to choose from.  Our tester, the Custom Trail Boss, included much in the way of standard equipment while being just two levels up from Silverado’s basic work truck (WT).  This level added four-wheel drive, a 2-inch lift, and other off-road upgrades.  The 420-hp 6.2L V8 engine was an option on our tester as were off-road assist tires and a spray-on bedliner.  All in, its price was $49K.

The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 offers a truckload of new mechanical and technological updates, including the addition of an available Multi-Flex Tailgate.

Also key to GM’s survival over the next century will be its ability to compete in the coming onslaught of all-electric vehicles.  A recent article by Reuters says 2020 was finally a tipping point for EVs, as others reacted to Tesla’s significant rise in 2020 marketshare.  GM touts its Chevy Bolt as the vehicle that finally bridges the gap between long range and expensive EVs, and the more affordable end of the spectrum, where range has been a limiting factor.  The 2020 Chevy saw a 10% increase in capacity to 66 kWh, ramping its range up to 259 miles.

Our recent Chevy Bolt test vehicle was quick and quiet and spacious, given its compact size. Sporting the upgraded Premier trim level automatically added the Comfort and Convenience package, plus surround-view parking and  high-definition rearview camera.  Options totaling $2,235 included fast-charging provisions, an upgraded infotainment package, a driver confidence (safety feature) package and Cajun Red paint, putting the price tag a little over $44k.

The Bolt is an early pioneer in GM’s plans to overhaul 40 percent of its lineup and invest $27 billion to introduce 30 electric vehicle models by 2025 across all of its various brand names.  The EV variants of Cadillac will show what GM is capable of in competing with Tesla in the luxury EV segment.  But perhaps even more significant is the reintroduction of the GMC Hummer as “the world’s first all-electric supertruck.”  Futurists say it will be just as essential for legacy automakers to take action if they intend to compete the in the coming wave of electric pickups.

Newcomers like Michigan-based Rivian are making waves in this side of the race, too.  The Rivian R1T truck will arrive this summer.  Telsa is on the offense with its Cybertruck.  But Bloomberg analysts say GM and Ford will have the advantage in rolling out their big artillery in the race to EVs.  Ford introduced a hybrid powertrain to the 2021 F-150 and plans to introduce the F150 Electric in 2022.  An all-electric pickup is part of GM’s 2025 plan.

There’s work to be done before we’ll see electric models that match the upfront costs of their naturally aspirated counterparts. Car and Driver’s ownership cost comparison was a three year analysis challenging the claim that in spite of their higher purchase price, electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel and maintain, and thus cheaper to own and operate.  Their conclusion:  In one test, the gas vs. electric comparison was a wash; in the other, the electric was more costly than the gas version. Only with $7,500 in state and local purchase incentives factored in would the lower cost of ownership argument prove true on the first comparison, while only bringing the electric model in line with the gas model cost in the second comparison.  With competition comes innovation, so it is predicted that the upfront cost gap will soon be resolved as virtually every player in the automaker realm has now put a priority on making electric vehicles.

We pray that the Big 3 fare well in the battle ahead!

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