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Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Will Next Gen GM Pickups Offer?

In early 2007, General Motors brought its 2008 full size pickup trucks to the market, an all new generation of vehicles. As expected, the trucks have sold well although in 2011, GM must cut its production downward to reflect decreased demand. Persistently high gas prices have taken its toll on sales as well as GM's inability to match Ford on fuel efficient offerings.

That all may change as early as 2012 if GM presses forward with its plans to replace its current Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra with new models. Both trucks are aging and the technologies currently found under its hood are being one-upped by Ford.

New Trucks

GM's announcement in summer 2011 that it was planning plant downtime in 2012 to retool for its next generation trucks have surprised some. Back in 2008, the last time gas prices were through the roof, GM pledged to delay its next generation trucks by at least a year in a bid to concentrate on developing newer, smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles. Those vehicles are either on the market or will arrive soon, which means that the bigger trucks and SUVs are due for updates.

GM's weakness with its large pickup trucks has much to do with its choice of engines. The base 4.3-liter V-6 is old and barely matches the larger 5.3-liter V-8 in fuel economy. That V-8 employs active fuel management, where unneeded cylinders are shut down and reactivated at a moment's notice. Getting 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway is respectable, but its highway mileage trumps the V-6 by 1 mpg.

Hot Engines

Ford has a pair of V-8 engines and a pair of V-6 engines in its F-150 pickup truck. Indeed, Ford cleared out its engine offerings for 2011, allowing it to keep its model fresh and delay a total refreshening by a few years. Importantly, its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 offer six cylinder gas mileage and V-8 power, a combination that has caught on with buyers. Indeed, in recent months Ford's V-6 engines have outsold its V-8 engines, providing a much needed edge for Ford that Chevy and GMC do not have.

Although GM is mum on its Silverado and Sierra plans, expect the general to get rid of its current V-6 and come up with a formidable competitor to Ford. GM is investing in 8-speed technology, therefore pairing that transmission with a new, fuel efficient engine could help the next generation full size trucks crack the 25 mpg highway mark, a feat not done by any engine except for select diesels.

Matthew C. Keegan is editor and publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine." Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy's Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including Dodge Charger headers and wheels and tires.

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