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GM Returns to Medium-Duty Truck Market, Partners with Isuzu

16 June 2015 - Automotive News

GM Returns to Medium-Duty Truck Market, Partners with Isuzu

General Motors is returning to the medium-duty commercial truck business in the U.S. next year after a seven-year hiatus, a move that GM believes will lead to more sales of pickups, vans and other trucks to fleet buyers.

GM will sell trucks from Isuzu Motors as rebadged Chevrolets, the companies announced today. They include six so-called low-cab forward models: Chevrolet 3500, 3500HD, 4500, 4500HD, 5500 and 5500 HD.

Ed Peper, GM's vice president of fleet and commercial sales, said dealers who do significant fleet business have been asking for years for GM to return to the medium-duty market. Peper said medium-duty customers typically need other trucks for their fleets, from midsize and light-duty pickups to vans and crossovers.

"We've heard from Chevy dealers saying, 'What are you going to do on medium-duty product?' There are a lot of adjacent sales associated with it," Peper said in an interview.

He added that many commercial customers "tell us they want one-stop shopping."

GM is scheduled to announce the move today at a national meeting of Chevy dealers in Las Vegas.

GM shut down its medium-duty truck line in 2009 while in bankruptcy after failing to find a buyer for the operation. GM had produced the trucks, the Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick, at a plant in Flint, Mich.

Chevy will sell regular-cab and crew-cab versions of the new trucks, which will offer a GM-sourced 6.0-liter, V-8 gasoline engine or Isuzu's 3.0-liter and 5.2-liter turbodiesel engines, depending on the model. The line will be based on Isuzu's N Series trucks.

Competition

While Ford Motor Co. sells other styles of medium-duty trucks, Peper said no domestic competitor sells low-cab forward trucks, which position the driver as far forward as possible, in front of the engine. They're used in everything from construction and garbage collection to food delivery.

Peper said the U.S. market for low-cab forward trucks is about 30,000 units annually. Isuzu and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. also sell them.

Peper believes entry into the medium-duty market will accelerate already sharp growth in GM's commercial sales, which jumped 31 percent last year and have risen 25 percent this year through May.

More Isuzu cooperation

GM signaled the possibility of additional ventures with Isuzu. The companies have partnered in commercial trucks and diesel engines in various global markets for 40 years.

The new deal "reinforces a long-term relationship that helps to explore future collaborations in the U.S. commercial vehicle business," GM said.

GM at one point held 49 percent of Isuzu shares, but sold its last remaining stake in 2006. In 2012, Reuters reported that GM had proposed taking a controlling stake of more than one-third of Isuzu, but the truck maker wanted to stay independent.

The companies said last September that they would partner on the development of a midsize pickup for markets outside of the U.S. and Canada.

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