Despite sharing the same engines, transmissions, and platform.
Have you ever looked at the General Motors truck lineup and wondered why Chevy and GMC both sell what is essentially the same truck? Well, you aren't alone. This question has been plaguing us for years and we knew there had to be a reason why GM would persist with two truck brands. At this year's Detroit Auto Show, we had a chance to sit down with Chevy and GMC to discuss what makes each of their trucks unique.
Even though the Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 share the same platform, engines, and transmissions, the two don't necessarily attract the same type of buyers. In fact, most diehard truck owners would never cross-shop the two, which means the two brands are marketing themselves quite differently.
"One of the strengths of General Motors is having two truck brands," explained Chevy Trucks Marketing Director, Sandor Piszar. "We've worked hard to make sure they are working on a complementary basis versus at odds or against each other. It gives us a tactical advantage over our competition." Looking at pickup truck sales numbers, the Ford F-150 may still wear the sales crown but with the combination of Chevy and GMC sales, then GM has sold "more pickup trucks than any other manufacturer for five consecutive years," according to Piszar.
Look at the two trucks, and it's clear that this current generation is "more differentiated than they ever have been," Piszar said. "In the old days, the differentiation came down to just a badge on the grille. Today, they feature completely different sheet metal with different focus and customers." Chevy went with a bold new styling direction on the Silverado while GMC kept a more classic look for the Sierra.
You might assume that because both are GM trucks, they would be easily cross-shopped. This is actually not the case as many GMC buyers never look at a Chevy when they come into shared GM dealerships. Both Piszar and GMC Trucks Marketing Manager, Stu Pierce, attribute the diversity in customers to a strategic division in trim levels.
"If you look at our upper trim levels, GMC is focused on Denali while Chevy has High Country," Piszar explained. "Even though both are high-trim, well-appointed vehicles, they both target different customers. High Country is more of a premium outdoors execution while Denali is more of an upscale urban execution."
"Chevy has eight trims, while we have six," Pierce said of GMC. "Three of our six are targeted at the upper end of the market - the Denali, the SLT, and the AT4. Those trucks transact for well over $50,000 on average and represent almost 80% of [GMC's] volume."
This is where we noticed the biggest difference between these two truck brands - Chevy is aimed at the core of the truck market while GMC is more focused on luxury buyers.
This is not to say Chevy doesn't build a luxury truck or that GMC doesn't offer a more bare bones truck, it just shows the two brands are thriving by targeting different sections of the truck market. GMC also retains a few exclusive features such as Adaptive Ride Control suspension and the Multi-Pro tailgate, which we had the pleasure of testing on the 2019 Sierra 1500.
The Sierra will soon receive an optional carbon fiber bed, which Pierce said is "repairable and different from the stuff you'd see on a sports car. It uses isotropically chopped carbon fiber, so if you need to replace a part of it, the cost is not as prohibitive."
Pierce also told us GMC buyers are looking for "a lot of power. We offer the same engines that Chevy does but we tend to focus on the 6.2-liter engine." When we drove the off-road-oriented Silverado Trail Boss, we noted it was only available with the smaller 5.3-liter V8. By contrast, the off-road-focused Sierra AT4 is offered with an upgraded version of the 6.2-liter engine and "70-80% of them are sold with the 6.2," according to Pierce.
After talking to both truck brands, it is clear that Chevy and GMC each play different roles in GM's product portfolio. If you wanted to be cynical, you could call these two trucks nearly identical but their respective customers are extremely diverse and justify the existence of two separate brands.