Yesterday, GM introduced their brand new full size, impossibly large, family and gear hauling SUVs: The 2015 Chevy Suburban and 2015 GMC Yukon. The Corvette might be an enthusiast's dream, the Volt makes greenies go giddy, but the full-size trucks are by far the most important vehicles GM will introduce this decade.
Basically every car fan was salivating over the 2014 Corvette when it was introduced. And they should go nuts over it: By all accounts GM has built a new Corvette that is a phenomenal performer on the road and the track. It's an important car for the General.
Thing is, the Corvette doesn't sell in vulgar numbers, it's a halo car for the brand. The Tahoe, Suburban, and Yukons are not halo cars. They have very specific tasks and they do them incredibly well. And the evidence speaks for itself.
In 2012, the full-size SUV market was 240,000 sales industry wide. GM's full-size offerings made up 168,000 of those sales. The sales of these SUVs would make it a Fortune 400 company like Bed, Bath, & Beyond (they'd be the Beyond part, I guess). That's more than domination. Much like Toyota with the Corolla, it is imperative that GM get their full size offerings right. The last thing they need is to have a debacle like the squircle Taurus in the 1990s that basically assassinated the American sedan.
GM has a lot riding here. They also knew that Nissan and Toyota were dropping out of the full-size game, which means there is another 11 percent of marketshare opening up that is ripe for the taking.
Yesterday at the launch event, I said that the Suburban looked "a lot like a Suburban." I think that's the highest compliment you can pay an icon that was just redesigned. It's new, but it's still a Suburban from first glance. The 1996 Ford Taurus was not a Taurus when you looked at it.
That was a problem.
GM can be crazy with the Corvette and the Volt, these are nameplates that represent the future of performance and technology for their brands. Their full-size trucks need to be comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold July 4th or watching Sister Act II on a snowy Halloween night.
As much as we like change, we really value continuity and routine. The developments to the Suburban and Yukon like fold flat seats, cylinder deactivation, upgraded interiors, LED accent lights, and magnetic ride don't change the purpose of the vehicle. This is not a place to be controversial and break the mold. It's a place to stay the course, tweak what needs tweaking, and then reap the sweet cash.
All GM needed to do was increase utility to make it a better seller. Guess what? They did. I believe the reason that big dogs like Nissan and Toyota are pulling out of the full-size SUV market isn't because people are demanding fuel efficient vehicle to replace their full-size trucks. No. It's more of a case that they couldn't gain the marketshare against GM's nearly perfect formula to make it a worthwhile investment to continue.
GM has done what they needed to do to continue dominating in 2015. That's a problem for everyone else.