The American SUV market is showing no signs of cooling off and that has a lot of manufacturers thinking about what their product mix should look like, notably Chevrolet which is scoring big with new models like the 2018 Equinox and Traverse.
Parent General Motors has slashed production of slower selling models, primarily passenger cars like the Spark and Impala, while boosting output at truck plants, the three Equinox lines running “24/7,” according to Chevy marketing director Steve Majoros.
Chevy has been adding a range of new SUV variants, such as the Traverse High Country. But when asked if the bowtie brand might be looking at introducing some all-new models to its ute family, Majoros told TheDetroitBureau.com, “We have our eyes on a lot of things.”
Chevy has always been a strong player in the light truck market and is just wrapping up the centennial celebration of its entry into the segment, almost by accident when a handful of workers at an old Detroit plant patched together a truck using spare parts they found lying around the factory.
(Chevy brings the beach to SEMA with Traverse concept. To see more, Click Here.)
Today, Chevy offers three distinct pickup lines, the high-volume full-size Silverado, the HD work truck and the Colorado. That model has ridden a new wave of demand in what had long been seen as a crumbling midsize market and despite the overall weakness of the U.S. new vehicle market, Chevy expects to score another big increase in sales of the Colorado this year.
But the big boom is in the SUV market, from the little Chevy Trax crossover to the full-size, truck-based Suburban and Tahoe models.
In-between, Chevy’s factories can barely keep up with demand for two new 2018 models. The new Traverse, for one, has barely a 15-day supply on dealer lots in an industry where 60 to 70 is generally considered the norm. Equally important, the 2018 Traverse is now offered with new high-line packages like the High Country that starts at nearly $53,000. On the whole, the typical customer is now spending $3,174 more for an ’18 Traverse than a year earlier.
With the Equinox, the good news is that the compact SUV is in equally short supply. The bad news is that a month-long strike at one of three plants, this one in Ontario, has left Chevy scrambling to rebuild inventory, all three assembly lines operating 24/7, according to Majoros.
For the industry, as a whole, light trucks now account for nearly two-thirds of new vehicle sales. That’s leading many manufacturers to trim production of their passenger car models and even drop some slow-sellers. GM has reportedly been weighing the fate of at least a half-dozen.
(Click Here for a review of the new, three-row 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.)
While he wouldn’t discuss specific plans, Majoros said that, “On the passenger car side we’ve seen the worst of the downsizing” of the segment, and are likely to see the growth of the light truck market begin to level off.
While production of passenger car models is being “right-sized,” the marketing chief said, the question is how to take full advantage of today’s truck-heavy market. Part of the approach is to add more variants, such as the high-line Traverse High Country SUV and the off-road capable Colorado ZR2 midsize pickup.
But it may also require filling in some white space, Majoros and his boss, Chevrolet Vice President Brian Sweeney, acknowledged. Along with the Colorado, a critical addition to the line-up came with the 2015 model-year launch of the subcompact Trax crossover which has helped retain buyers who were looking to move out of Chevy’s small sedans, coupes and hatchbacks.
Chevy is by no means the only automaker expanding its truck line-up and, in particular, its SUV family. Luxury makers, in particular, have been racing to fill every possible niche with the likes of the X2 it unveiled last month.
(Chevy has big plans for bigger Traverse. For the story, Click Here.)
As to what they’re looking at, Chevy officials are mum, but they don’t deny looking at what the competition is up to. Across town, Ford is reversing course with the upcoming launch of the Bronco. Instead of another car-based crossover-utility vehicle, it will deliver a modern take on the classic body-on-frame SUV. Could Chevy have similar plans for a new Blazer? Apparently, we’ll have to wait and see. But with the strength of the ute market, Chevrolet planners clearly know they have to move fast or lose an opportunity.