Understanding GMC – Is It Possible?

A little while back I mentioned I’d take a look at the GMC brand to see what it was all about.

2017 GMC Canyon: GMC.com
2017 GMC Canyon: GMC.com

So, I threw some coal into the furnace and got my computer (an Osborne portable) up and running.

The GMC range is divided into two groups: trucks in one groups and cross-overs and SUVs in the other. The truck range has two basic models dressed up to appear like eight. The Canyon and the Sierra form the core truck range, starting at $21,000 for the Canyon, and $28,000 for the Sierra. Three sub-models form the Sierra range: 1500, 2500 and 3500 at $28,000 to $34,000 for the base models. To

2017 GMC Sierra: GMC.com
2017 GMC Sierra: GMC.com

add a bit of luxury and comfort (or to prise dollars from customers) the trucks can all be had as Denali variants e.g. the Sierra 2500 Denali. The Denali option nearly double the price of the Canyon but adds about $9000-$14000 to the others. The most expensive “base model” is $55,000 for the Sierra 3500 Denali. The Canyon is “the only premium mid-sized pickup” say GMC and without a huge survey of the market I can not assess this claim. The Sierra does not have a motto. The vehicle takes up too much space on the webpage. I had to switch between the images to play spot the difference. And they can be found while also not being great differences. Both are crew-cab vehicles.

Over in the Crossovers and SUV departments, GMC offer the Terrain, the Acadia (drat that car), the Yukon and the Yukon XL. The Terrain is an SUV with a base price of about $24,000 and looks to be where GMC’s range overlaps most with more general brands such as Chevrolet. The Acadia is more of the same but bigger: $29,000. And the Yukon is a big BOF thing in two sizes and two base prices, $48,000 to $51,000.

For comparison, Cadillac’s XT5 crossover costs $40,000 meaning a GMC customer could easily pay similar money for a Cadillac. Only the Escalade weighs in with a base price higher than any GMC but not much higher. The Escalade costs from $74,000. With the 4WD box ticked the GMC Yukon XL comes to with a thousand dollars of the Cadillac. The Yukon and Escalade are on the same platform.

2017-cadillac-escalade-cropped
2017 Cadillac Escalade

The next part of this fine exercise is to see what Chevrolet are selling and find out how much overlap there is. In summary, GMC means “not cars” from $20,000 to $73,000. It also means “vans” as in the Savana passenger van, which covers that part of the market the Ford Transit does in Europe. It costs from $34,000 and there is a panel variant.

Shoved to one side of the side is GMC’s actual commercial division which means vehicles actually intended to get wrecked, dented and dusty on buildings sites. It looks to me as if GMC (which means GM Commercial) has grown from the white truck market out into the private vehicle market much as Carhartt work trousers are now sold in ordinary shops for men’s and ladies apparel.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “Understanding GMC – Is It Possible?”

  1. With the demise of the Defender, the veneer has got paper thin, but undoubtedly The Range Rover, Discovery, etc have all benefitted from a direct connection with a no-nonsense, go anywhere vehicle. So this seems like a reasonably smart use of a brand name by GMC. A good, established chunky name, not one of those effete metropolitan brands, and nothing sissy there. It makes me wonder whether, in Europe, a company like Scania could be missing out on something.

    1. Don’t give VAG ideas…

      Actually I’d be surprised if Wolfsburg hasn’t kicked around the idea of an Amarok or Toerag with Scania or M.A.N branding.

      For the kind of person likely to buy such a thing, the Österreichische Automobil-Fabrik badge would be far more appropriate.

  2. “the Savana passenger van, which covers that part of the market the Ford Transit does in Europe.”

    and powered by a V8.

  3. GMC pickup trucks began as Chevrolet pickup trucks to be sold by Pontiac and Oldsmobile dealers. GMC SUVs began as generic GMC SUVs to be sold by Pontiac and Oldsmobile dealers.

    Badge engineering at its finest. BL couldn’t have done it half as well.

  4. I assume that WordPress is not playing nice with WordPerfect. I have fond memories of my Osborne 386. You always remember your first, right?

    As a furriner to these shores, the whole GMC-Chevy distinction has always passed me by somewhat – it’s not like it isn’t obvious the costume jewellery is anything other than skin-deep. I figured GMC was a prime candidate for the axe in the Great Brand Consolidationing of 2009. But then I discussed this with a friend who knows about such things, and he assured me there is a sizeable base that is happy to buy a GMC but regards Chevrolets as terminally downmarket and low-rent. Given the essentially nominal cost of keeping the brand around compared to the increased margins, that seemingly justifies its continued existence. Incidentally, said friend offered by way of contextualisation the example of someone in his family who had actually purchased a Mercury, with money, but would never have been caught dead in the equivalent Ford in a million years.

    Insert joke about Americans/Trump/rational thought/logic etc here.

    1. I don’t think this is an American thing, by far not.
      A colleague of mine saw his family unexpectedly grow to six members (the plan was five) and had to replace his car. He finally bought a Fiat Scudo, but would never have been caught dead in the equivalent Peugeot or Citroën in a million years.

  5. I’m a native unitedstatesian and I’ve read A. P. Sloan’s classic (they say) My Years With GM. When he wrote, GM’s market segmentation (by product price and attributes, not by customer characteristics) might have made sense. The boundaries between products have since blurred into near-invisibility. GM lost its way long ago and so did most if not all of the industry.

  6. Among the comments I can see Ford versus Mercury and Chevrolet versus GMC as having a soupcon of basis in differences. Placing Fiat over Peugeot and Citroen is unfathomable. I am open to explanations – is there a “class” difference I missed or is Italy good/France bad?

    (DTW is pleased this post has been helpful.)

    1. I had the same question. Is it because Fiat has traditionally a sportier image, so he felt more Daddy Cool in it than if it had French badges?

    2. I don’t even think it’s about perceived class differences or a sporty image. It rather seems that for some (many?) people, a ‘French’ car is just out of the question. There is a strong ‘German only’ fraction among them, but many would take anything non-French, including Russian or Chinese.

  7. Entirely too much effort expended in explaining the non-difference between GMC and Chevy “trucks” and SUVs, really! Neither make commercial “lorries”, these days. That was five decades ago, when the difference was fundamental because different engines completely.

    There used to be Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers and Buick/Pontiac dealers (in the States even some devoted to one only in high volume areas). So two different pickups were needed, Chev for one and GMC for the other. We got Envoys at Chev/Olds dealers, Vauxhalls at Pontiac/Buick, same car different grilles from 1957.

    Ford pickups at Ford dealers, Mercury pickups at Mercury dealers the same vehicle; Dodge pickups at Dodge dealers, Fargo pickups at Plymouth dealers. Ad nauseam. Badge engineering decades before anyone at BLMC woke up one morning, swallowed two steaming cups of char and had a brainwave – What we need is a Morris Oxford and an Austin Cambridge that are identical, circa 1958 when Farina was coerced into making two version of his finned wonder that were wondrously similar, unlike the previous ones, where the Austin was singularly misshapen, and the Morris went on to comquer India.

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