General Motors revealed today redesigned large sport-utility vehicles — Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL — which are among the company’s most profitable vehicles.
The 2015 model-year SUVs, which will hit showrooms between January and April 2014, share the same vehicle architecture with GM’s recently redesigned full-size pickup trucks.
Separately, GM is expected to reveal the redesigned Cadillac Escalade on Oct. 7 in New York.
All three Detroit automakers are capitalizing on American’s rekindled affection for big trucks, both pickups and SUVs. Through the first eight months of 2013, light trucks, which include vans, crossovers and smaller SUVs, accounted for two-thirds of Chrysler’s U.S. sales, 65% of Ford’s and 61% of GM’s.
Japanese automakers, conversely, are relying much more on selling midsize and compact cars, and smaller crossover vehicles. Light trucks accounted for 45% of Honda’s sales this year through August, 43% of Toyota’s and 39% of Nissan’s.
“Because of our dominant market share performance, we’re going to continue to invest in this segment,” said John Schwegman, GM’s executive director of U.S. product and pricing for trucks.
While consumers care more about fuel economy than they did before the 2008 financial crisis, these hulking titans of the roadway remain status symbols among high-income customers.
The 2013 Suburban has sold for an average of $54,028, while the Tahoe sold for an average of $49,543, according to Kelley Blue Book.
GM sold 124,507 units of the four SUVs through August, up 18% from a year earlier.
Jeff Luke, GM’s executive chief engineer for trucks, said the automaker never seriously considered eliminating large SUVs. But he acknowledged that GM will need to make significant fuel economy gains in the next generation of the steel-frame vehicles.
The Suburban and Yukon XL, which weigh nearly three tons, are about 224 inches long, while the Tahoe and Yukon are about 204 inches and a few hundred pounds lighter.
GM did not reveal fuel economy figures or pricing for the new vehicles.
The vehicles, which will be built in Arlington, Tex., will get the GM’s redesigned 5.3-liter, 8-cylincder engine with six-speed automatic transmission as the standard powertrain. The premium Yukon Denali, selected by 60% of Yukon buyers, will have a 6.2-liter engine. Like the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, the SUVs boast direct injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing.
Still, some industry watchers might be surprised to see GM selling a six-speed transmission on a 2015 model, with competitors offering eight- and even nine-speed powertrains.
Luke hinted that the automaker would soon introduce more advanced technology.
On the outside, the SUVs didn’t change dramatically. They boast new hoods, grilles and fascias. Interior improvements include second- and third-row seats that fold flat for extra storage. There is more legroom, too.
The average household income of a Tahoe buyer is $120,000, while the average income of Suburban buyers is $135,000 and $112,000 for Yukon buyers.
Maria Rohrer, director of marketing for GM trucks, said Tahoe buyers typically come from a dual-income household, while Suburban buyers are more likely to come from a single-income household with teenage kids and a need to haul equipment, boats or trailers.
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