Are General Motors' (NYSE:GM) new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra losers?
A lot of Internet trash talk has been aimed at both full-size pickups since GM unveiled the just-redesigned new models in January. Even my Foolish colleague Daniel Miller has been skeptical, saying that the Silverado "looks to disappoint" when the all-new models hit dealers later this spring.
But I think it's unlikely that the trucks will "disappoint." In fact, I think there's a good chance they'll turn out to be great trucks once folks get a chance to drive them.
More improvements than meet the eye
Most observers are keying off the new trucks' looks -- they bear a strong family resemblance to the outgoing versions they're replacing. (The silver truck is a 2013 Silverado LTZ, and the red one is the all-new 2014 version.)
But there appear to be a whole lot of subtle improvements baked into the new truck. GM certainly hasn't been shy about saying so: The company called a press conference last week to tout its new haulers, pointing out, among other things, that a Silverado with GM's new 5.3 liter V8 got slightly better EPA mileage ratings than Ford's (NYSE:F) much-advertised "EcoBoost" V6 truck.
That sounds like a trivial thing, but a lot of full-size pickup buyers would rather have the V8, all things being equal -- even if it's a V8 that runs on just four cylinders much of the time to save gas, as GM's new engine will.
GM has been touting a slew of other upgrades, from the new truck's impressive towing capacity to an upgraded interior. But all automakers do that when they launch new models. Why should we take GM's word for it?
Here's why: Because after years of up and down quality, the company's latest models have been very good.
Why a Cadillac bodes well for GM's pickups
In any given month, GM might sell 50,000 pickups or more here in the United States. The combination of high volume and big margins mean that pickups are Ford's most important single line of business -- and they just might be GM's, too.
In contrast, GM sold just 15,751 Cadillacs in the U.S. in March -- but in its own way, GM's ongoing effort to revive Cadillac is nearly as important to GM's long-range profit goals as its bread-and-butter pickup trucks are.
Why am I bringing up Cadillac? Because GM's latest Cadillacs have been home runs. The ATS, a compact sedan launched last year, has turned out to be a genuine, legit competitor to the BMW 3-Series, one of the best-regarded cars in the world.
The ATS, simply put, is really good, proof that GM is doing great vehicles nowadays. Its big brother, the CTS, was just unveiled in New York, and it looks like another home run, a car that will challenge BMW's 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz's E-Class head-on.
GM isn't messing around anymore
I could pick other examples. The Chevy Cruze is GM's best-ever compact car. The Impala is a giant upgrade over its predecessor. The new Buicks are very strong entries. GM's midsized crossovers are racking up big sales.
But here's the takeaway: GM's latest designs are miles beyond what we were seeing from this company even a few years ago. These folks aren't messing around anymore.
And that's why I'm willing to bet -- heck, as a GM shareholder, I have bet -- that these new pickups are going to be really good, as well as a fierce rival for Ford's F-Series. Wait and see.