GMC pushes forward with Hummer on success of current portfolio
Detroit — General Motors Co. can't seem to get new GMC Sierra trucks to dealers fast enough.
The automaker is relishing the success of the Sierra — whose sales through the first half of 2020 were the premium truck's best in 15 years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the U.S. economy. GMC's using the performance to bolster its entry into the electric market with the Hummer EV debuting virtually Oct. 20 — electrified hardware would-be Hummer EV owners could reserve starting that day.
"The more we get in touch with it, the more impressed with it we are on every level from a capability through to a technologically advanced vehicle through to its interior and exterior design," Duncan Aldred, vice president of global GMC, said Monday. "We really believe this is going to set a new standard within this space in the industry."
GM is reviving the Hummer brand more than a decade after it stopped making the off-roading SUV and nearly sold its name. The Hummer will return as an all-electric vehicle that will generate the equivalent of 1,000 horsepower, deliver 11,500 pound-feet of torque and accelerate from zero-to-60 in 3 seconds. The Hummer EV features "crab mode," which allows the vehicle to move diagonally.
About half of GMC's 1,700 dealers have signed up to sell the Hummer EV. Art Moran Buick GMC of Southfield is one of them.
"We are one of the first dealers to actually sign up for it," said Randy Wagner, Art Moran's general sales manager. "You got to play ball. We aren't going to sell 100 Hummers in a year, but it's going to bring excitement to the brand and help with sales of other models."
GM hasn't retreated from its commitment to building an electric lineup during the global pandemic. It's in the middle of transitioning the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant to its first all-electric plant, which will be home to the Hummer EV and other electric vehicles that are a major part of GM's electric future. GM is pushing to have 20 electric vehicle nameplates globally by 2023. Production of the Hummer EV is slated for late 2021.
"One of the ways you're capable as an automaker of investing in the future is to be successful in the present," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iseecars.com, a car search engine site. "You can't plan and bolster your future if you don't have the money today to do it because there's always the long lead time."
GM has said more than half of its North America revenue — about $65 billion annually — comes from truck sales. Those sales have have remained resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic for GM and other automakers. Truck sales were down by double digits during the beginning of the pandemic through June, according to sales data from Edmunds.com Inc. The sales made a major return in July with just a 5% decline and were down 11% in August, according to Edmunds. Trucks had 20.3% of market share in August.
In the second quarter, GMC Sierra light-duty sales tallied 38,825 vehicles, down 9.5% from last year. Sierra heavy-duty sales were up 7.6% with 14,999 sales. Third-quarter sales will be released Oct. 1.
In a business update, GMC said Sierra light-duty truck's segment share is up 1.6 points at 12%. The heavy-duty Sierra gained 3.5 points of segment share at 13.7%. And dealers report that they can't keep any Sierras on their lots, with most spoken for before they even arrive.
"I've been doing this for 25 years and I've never seen anything like it," Wagner said. "I sold every single Sierra I could get my hands on."
Inventory levels are tight with less than 30 days supply for both light-duty and heavy-duty versions, GMC confirmed. A healthy supply of trucks is 90 days, but GM was hit first last fall with a 40-day strike by the United Auto Workers that halted production and then by an eight-week COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Pent-up demand after COVID-19 has kept customers coming back.
But Bob Simmons, LaFontaine Buick GMC executive general manager who oversees three GMC dealerships in Highland, Ann Arbor and Lansing, said demand was strong even before COVID-19 hit Michigan hard.
"They can't produce enough to meet demand right now," Simmons said. "It's just really tough."
Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for market researcher Edmunds, noted that folks buying a GMC may not be as affected as others in the pandemic since it's a premium brand.
"It is an expensive truck," she said. "It kind of makes sense why it would soar at this point. With luxury cars the market share does well during a recession just because people with money continue to have money."
GMC claims the Sierra has the highest average transaction prices in comparison to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Ram and Ford Motor Co.'s F-150. Kelley Blue Book data shows the Sierra's ATP on average has come in less than $1,000 higher than the F-150 and Ram.
First glimpses of the Hummer were seen during a 2020 Super Bowl commercial featuring basketball legend LeBron James. GMC originally planned to publicly reveal the Hummer in May, but had to delay the reveal date because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new reveal, like most other reveals during the pandemic, will be virtual.
LaFontaine also signed up to sell the Hummer. There's already been "a lot of buzz about it," at the dealerships, Simmons said.
"Electrification is huge," he said. "That's the way the market's going. We have to move with it. We have to bring this technology to our consumers."