GM Studying Re-entry into Medium-Duty Segment

GM Studying Reentry into Medium-Duty Segment

Less than a year after General Motors exited the medium-duty truck business, the company is looking at re-entering the segment.

“GM has a rich heritage in medium-duty trucks,” Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, told some of GM’s largest fleet dealers and key commercial customers. “We didn’t do well [with the last trucks] but never say never. I’d love to play in the space, but we’d have to do it differently with better use of engineering and other resources if we did it. We’re looking at the business now.”

GM ended production of the Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick medium-duty trucks in August last year after failing to sell the line of Class 5-7 work trucks to Isuzu or Navistar. The Kodiak and TopKick had difficulty finding acceptance in the market, competing against Class 4/5 full-size pickup entries from Ford and Dodge and Class 5-7 conventional medium-duty trucks from companies like Hino and International.

GM said it left the segment to refocus on the company’s “core businesses.”

GM could approach medium-duty trucks in several ways, according to Joyce Mattman, GM’s director of commercial products.

“There’s the TopKick/Kodiak Class 5/6 and above and there’s the black hole, which is Class 4/5. They’re two distinct segments,” Mattman said. “We’ve competed in Class 4 [C3500 HD] trucks in the past. The thing our customers liked about it was that it had a light-duty (pickup) cab, and companies like electric utilities could get back in between houses and alleys [where larger medium-duty trucks can’t go]. But many of our medium-duty dealers would love it if we took our product line all the way back up [to Class 7]. There are two ways to go after the business.”

GM’s fleet dealers have repeatedly asked for a so-called “black hole” truck – since before the TopKick and Kodiak ended production – to fill the void of a Class 4 product that could compete head-to-head against the Ford F-450 Super Duty and Ram 4500 Chassis Cab trucks. A new GM lower-end medium-duty truck could fill that gap, sharing the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra’s all-new frame.

Other medium-duty truck makers have taken advantage of GM’s absence from the segment. International recently introduced its new Class 4/5 TerraStar work truck at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March with a form factor similar to the TopKick and Kodiak.

In the meantime, GM’s medium-duty truck outlets are surviving as well as they can. One Buick/GMC dealer we spoke with said it purchased a large lot of leftover TopKick and Kodiak trucks from Alaska to satisfy demand in California. As those trucks are sold down, the dealer is depending on ongoing service and parts for GM fleet truck owners to help the bottom line until new Buick and GMC passenger cars and trucks can provide increased revenue.

Comments

Mike making a 4500 type vehicle to compete against the Ford 450s and Dodge Chassis Trucks is a no-brainer. The problem is the heavier class. Do they have the resources to compete against Navistar and Hino?

"GM said it left the segment to refocus on the company’s “core businesses."

GM, please return when you HAVE refocused the company's "core businesses."

Thanks!

I was always surprised the 6-7-8 Topkick/Kodiak didn't sell better. It really was one of the best medium/heavy trucks out there, and the Isuzu 6H diesel was the best mid-range engine. Being the only manufacturer with a gas engine was (and will continue to be) a significant advantage. As for the class 4-5, they were nice trucks but really too large and bulky for the market. The Ford 450/550 and Dodge 4500/5500 are what the market wants. Good to see GM is reconsidering and knows what the problems were.

GM needs to make a C/K 3500 , 4500 like they used to in the 90,s with a solid beam front axle and a 4x4 option this time , I never understood why GM didn't make a 4x4 version of 3500HD .

Strangely International looks like it will be making the same mistake GM did. The Terrastar is too large for a class 4 or 5 truck.

GM, Please make a 4500/5500 based on the silverado with wider footprint and with solid front axles RWD and 4WD. Also have a LTZ option for 4500 with that solid axle.
Thank you.

They did make a 3500hd 4x4 just very rare. I dont understand how they say they didn't sell good, when I ordered one in jan of 07 it wouldn't be built until october of 07. Every day you see more and more kodiaks, they just took a while for companies to realize that they had options other than a ford . But GM just handed all those customers over to ford when they quit. Hopefully the kodiaks will come back with better interiors so they can compete a little easier

450 vs GM medium duty:

"The Ford would be easier to live with when unhitched, more comfortable and better-equipped with luxury features and at a lower price too. The massive commercial-duty rear axle and brakes, combined with the smart brake controller make the F-450 an impressive hauler." - Mike Levine

http://www.pickuptrucks.com/html/2008/ford/sd/firstdrive/page5_05070129.html

Why leave a market and then realize that it was a mistake?
This is a prime example of why GMC went broke.
Here is another example:
"GM wants to finance more buyers with poor credit".

GM makes decent trucks - that is surprising considering how poorly managed GM is.

Lou- GM wants to finance less qualified buyers becuase right now they can lease to 19% fewer cutomers than Honda or Toyota. If GM could sell to the same customers that everyone else could they would sell even more vehicles making them, at least in theory, the best selling brand in America. Also, GM left the market just as fuel prices hit the highest. With strugglings sales, an aging platform, no money to redesign and insane fuel prices I'm sure it made the most since to leave. Now that prices have stabled out and GM has other product in the pipeline, which frees up money, they are ready to re enter the market.

I drive one of these every day and the reason they got out of the market is the trucks are worthless. We have ones with the gas motor and the diesel and both have all kinds of problems. We use to sell our cab chassis at about 150-200k and now we cant get them to make it past 150. If they dont make significant changes the companies that have bought them in the past are going to stay with Int., which is what we are starting to use now.

bobsled80
I don't know what your company have, but we are getting over 250k without major repair on gassers.

We had 4 Kodiaks in our work fleet for hauling around mobile cranes. All 4 had the diesel with an automatic. All 4 had the trans go out around 80,000. It was freaky how when we got one fixed two weeks later another one would break the trans. Finally got the trans issues taken care of when they all started having injector/fuel pump issues. The trucks were great until around the 80,000 mile mark, but we didn't have a single one make it to 100,000. One even had an injector stick open and hydro-lock the engine. I highly doubt GM has had time in its one year out of the medium duty truck market to work out the kinks to make doing so profitable again.

"...and Class 5-7 conventional medium-duty trucks from companies like Hino and International."

Ford also competes in Class 5-7 with the F-650 and F-750.

@ leo I can back up what john says since we have seen the same problems.

@fred Ill give you a hint we have 6000 tucks on the road and they are yellow with frozen food inside

@g-street - the optics of such a move (high risk credit) looks bad for GM. Honda apparently finances 20 % of it's sales to risky clients. The difference is Honda is financially stable, and did not go through bankrupsy procedings. Some experts say that there may be a slowdown in the economic recovery affecting sales. It doesn't make sense to me to take that risk.
I do not know what it would entail for GM to restart mid-duty truck production. It probably would be more expensive than stopping making trucks bigger than a 5500. That probably is what they should of done. I see tons of GM/Chev trucks in the 4500 - 5500 class range all over the place.
The story indicates that the market shortfall is in the F450/F550 or 4500/5500 class. Proper market research would of born this out.
Like I said before , I like their trucks but don't have any confidence in their management.

"That probably is what they should of done. I see tons of GM/Chev trucks in the 4500 - 5500 class range all over the place"

They were the basis of a lot of Class C Motorhomes as well.

GM did the smart thing when they kicked the topkick to the curb last year. that unit was incapable of of handling class 4 type work

GM heavy duty, medium duty,low duty, no duty trucks are worthless. In the 60's,70's,80's and even early 90's, they had some of the sturdiest trucks around. Then they turned to crap. We've used many of these and had transmission failures, Engine knocks and failures and the brakes are horrid. The cabs fall apart after the 50k mark. Every interior piece was cheap as cheap could be. No durability whatsoever.. Stuff would break all the time. We couldn't even use the door pockets without breaking the panels in half.

The bodies on GM trucks of the last 15 years or so are worthless. They're like pop cans on wheels. We had body mounts rip right off because the metal was so thin. The metal crumples up and dents easily and they rot out within a few years up in the snow belt. I use to be a GM lifer but gave up in 05 and bought a Ford. Our company dumped our GM trucks,vans and heavy duties and switched the entire fleet over to Ford. Almost 80 vehicles. Sturdier interiors, sturdier metal bodies, sturdier engines and sturdier transmissions.

You wonder why GM didn't do well in the market? They were cheap on everything as noted above. If GM EVER wants to get back in the market or even make a real truck like the F-250 Super Duty, they need to start with a real Solid Front Axle like they use to have. This torsion bar low slung-low ground clearance frame garbage is a joke. No wonder Dodge and Ford are taking their customers. Plus their trucks are better looking.

Yep, a 4500/5500 based on the Silverado with wider footprint and with solid front axles + 4x4 would be the ticket if these guys ever want to see a dime of commercial money or even working man money again. Contractors all use F-250's these days. The Super Duty is where the market has gone to. That platform gives a bigger truck with a Real beam axle unlike GM with their chintzy front suspension and tiny tires.. GM's 'heavy duty' truck can't even compete with Ford's smaller F-150 in terms of build quality. I never got why GM didn't have their own line of 1500's and then another line of HD's like Ford does. Split em up GM! You guys Inspired the Super Duty for heaven sake.

Plus the frame on the Ford is tucked up into the body as a result. Those low hanging GM frames are awful to look at and darn near drag on the road. I agree about their craptastic sheetmetal and interiors. They kinda went downhill in 1999 with the GMT-800's. What freaking piles of crap. By far the worst American truck ever built Period!! Ughh. I've had 2 with piston slap, bad instrument clusters, broken door plastic panels and both rusted out within 3 years here in MN. Rocker panels completely rotted away on both trucks and the beds rotted above the rear wheels. Junk Junk Junk.

I won't even take a chance on the new 2007 and newer GMT-900's after that experience. Why would I pay 30k on a truck that may rust away within 5 years and develop piston slap? That and the fact they're just plain ugly. Dodge and Ford have it all over Chevy anymore. Too bad, they didn't use to.

They can't even sell the remaing medium-duty trucks they stop making in August 2009. The is f**king pathetic.

"In the meantime, GM’s medium-duty truck outlets are surviving as well as they can. One Buick/GMC dealer we spoke with said it purchased a large lot of leftover Top Kick and Kodiak trucks from Alaska to satisfy demand in California"

Would you want to buy an "Old Discontined" new 2010 Chevy kodiak/ gmc top kick or all new Ford F-450.

I'm not seeing how they could compete without a major overhaul of their truck line. It's become a joke over the last 20 years or so. You still have a few guys who buy GM trucks but most of them work at banks or something. Nobody I know of uses GM trucks for any real work. They're just not built very well and GM uses pretty poor quality materials. I can't say I've ever heard of the new engines going bad though. I've seen them for sale with higher miles but the trucks were falling apart around the engine. I'll stick with my old 87 Chevy 4x4. Built like a tank and has a real axle and frame for work,play and driving in deep snow. Thing still runs like a champ. To bad they quit building them like this old one cause I'd still be buying. oh well.

I can easily see GM getting back into the class 4/5 range with a Silverado cab based truck. Expanding past into a class 5/6 Top Kick based truck doesn't make sense for GM unless they start with a clean sheet of paper. The Top Kick's are nighmares to turn a wrench on under the hood.

Yup, the Topkick and Kodiak are not the most accessable under the hood, but the Ford 650 and 750 are as bad if not worse. As for the Ford 350 thru 550, service is a total breeze, the easiest and most accessible I have ever seen. Thaqt is, once you get the cab off. And, with the horrid 6.0L Powerstroke, you'll get A LOT of practice jerking that cab off! I think the 2003-up Topkick and Kodiak were pretty good trucks, particularly the 6500 thru 8500 models. Compared to the Ford 650 and 750, they ride better, have better visibility, a larger cab, and a far better electrical system. The GM mediums were better built all around than the International 4400's and the Freightliner FL60's. Sure, maybe the Peterbilt 330 was a better truck, but it was a lot more expensive. GM did screw up with the 4500 and 5500 Topkick and Kodiak. Those trucks were simply to large for their weight class. BTW- we are talking about large commercial trucks here, not pickups. Many of you guys don't seem to have much experience with larger trucks, I can tell. Comments about transmission failures are particularly funny, as GM, Ford, International, Isuzu, Hino, and Freightliner all use the same transmissions from the same vendors. If you were in the business, you would know that!

I worked for GM in the Truck & Bus Division. Left when it was sold to Volvo truck & never looked back. I am still in the truck business & I don't buy a GM product unless I have too.
The bean counters have ruined the medium duty product. The previous Top Kick & Kodiak did not have enough head room, the last version fixed the head room but are horrible to service. Ask the guy with 6000 yellow trucks delivering frozen pizzas door to door about cracked doors, door hinges worn out in a year & the hinges are welded in place, have fun writing the check for replacing the hinge.
GM, please stick to your toy trucks & leave the big stuff to the real truck people.

GM really has no business making medium duty trucks. They don't make a light duty truck worth owning. I agree with Randy and many of the comments above, bean counters destroyed GM trucks and pretty much ruined their legacy forever. It was a good run though. Up until the late 80's the truck line was solid as could be unlike their cars of that era. Then the trucks went the car route and turned to garbage. First they yanked the front beam axles, then came the Vortecs with their intake gasket and spider injector issues, then we had the notorious GM 'Piston Slap' and then that last generation of trucks from about 2000 up til a few years ago that rusts to hell if you drive it in the rain. It's like one thing after another with these guys. And those interior materials are simply not durable in the least. And that's being kind.

I understand this is about medium duty trucks but if GM does their medium trucks like Ford or Ram do and base it off of their other trucks, Nobody will buy them. Their reputation is pretty much shot.

The only good Chevy is a racecar... and that's a fact. Those guys haven't a clue on how a real truck is built.

I wouldn't exactly call Ford the commercial truck of choice. I have a bunch of them, all the way from 150's to 750's. I won't get into the diesel engine issues, they have been well documented. Ford the Triton gas engines, we have seen head gasket and head bolt problems, exhaust manifold studs breaking, timing chain tensioner problems, spark plugs popping out (and many times it was the OEM installed plugs too),and plastic intake manifolds cracking. The early 3 valve engines had too long a plug installed, when you go to remove them carbon buildup on the end rip the threads out. The E4OD and 4R100 transmissions were usually gone by 50,000 miles. 97-up F-150's had issues with the chassis cracking behind the steering box at the first crossmember and the transmission crossmember, and door sheetmetal cracking at the window opening. Late model 4X4 Super Duty's have plastic ball joints and wheel bearings that are usually good for no more than 50,000 miles (particularly it the truck is a diesel). Super Duty door sheetmetal is so thin it wiggles when you shut the door. Plastic door handle is a joke (why did they even bother putting a lock on it, you can get in with a flat blade screwdriver). Oh, and what about the Super Duty rust issues? Work trucks? Sure, if you like working ON them. You go by out yard and you will see 150-odd company Fords in the back lot, and in the personal car lot it is mostly Chevys, Toyotas, and Dodge trucks. Fancy that.

I prefer Chevy engines and transmissions to what Ford has. I don't care for Ford engines, especially the diesels. I do like the rest of their truck enough though. I've never had a Dodge but looked at the new ones and think they're the nicest at the moment. As long as they have the transmission issues fixed that is. I don't like the Chevy truck or GMC looks wise. The F-150 is really sweet but the Super Duty has a tad too much chrome at the moment. Anyhow, good luck to GM. I'm sure their drivetrain will continue to be good (as long as the piston slap is banished forever).... Outside of the drivetrain though, GM really needs to focus on the rest of their truck if they plan on using it as a 4/5 base.

As noted above, rust has been such a major issue for the last 10 years or so on GM trucks. The bodies are really rotted away on trucks as new as 2005's. The beds, cabs and rockers have holes in them and the metal dents really easy. That's the main reason I just can bring myself to buy one anymore. I'll see those older bodies from the 90's and 80's still in pretty good shape and get the same use and abuse. You can tell they nickel and dimed their trucks lately. GM interiors have always been cheap since the 80's. I'm use to that. They'll need to make them sturdier and nicer going forward though. Those Ford interiors are pretty tough. I think after seeing the new Dodge it's matched Ford is interior quality though. Either way, The GM rust issue on their trucks is unacceptable. Those things use to be like a rock just like the slogan said. Not so much anymore.

The E4OD and 4R100 transmissions were usually gone by 50,000 miles.

I'll agree with this i replaced 5 of them ! 3 in an 95' F-150 and 2 in 03' F350 . . .

F-150 3 in 155K miles.

F-350 2 in 120K miles.

Not to mention the vast numbers of C-4 automatics i had fail on me as well.

I never towed in OD on the 4spd autos either . . . Ford just plain is no good at automatic transmissions !

I only had one Chrysler auto trans failure and that was a TF727 thing was a joke !

GM automatic's ? ya i only had i issue simply fixed with a pan drop swapped out the shift solenoids fluid and filter truck was back on the road . . .

I owned several of each brand i have found GM serves me best in the class 1-4 sized trucks.


Mike

GM's rust fast ? maybe if you drive them in salt then park them . . . ever washed the truck ? look at the 92-96 Ford's once all rotten . . . tho my 77' F-350 is still a rust free truck so Ford had it right once . . .

I have a 95' GMC K2500 with 140K miles no rust flawless paint interior is in great shape . . .

I also have a 1962 GMC K3000 1-1/4Ton, 500,000 miles on it That 379Ci V-6 Gas engine and 1.25 ton truck are still going strong its a 14k GVWR 20K GCW Truck so its no light duty rig its listed as a medium duty Rust had finally started to attack it after what 40+ years of Wisconsin weather . . .

But being almost 50 years old it'll still pull 22,000-LB's in moments notice tho it'll only run 62.5mph it'll still do it . . .

Mike

The 5500 series, especially the 4x4 were great trucks. Municipalities loved them for plowing & sanding. With the duramax engine - allison trans combination, it was in a class by itself, especially when coulped with the exhaust brake feature.
We purchased every 5500 4x4 that had the correct specs in a 1000 mile radius, & still couldn't find enough to fill all the orders we had.
Bringing back the GMC medium duty trucks is a no brainer.

You guys want to know who builds the best trucks?
Mercedes.
Too bad they don't bring them to the US.
Though I do have an 05 Unimog with a camper (GVW 33,000).

Charlie

Sorry so many comments are not on subject, which is medium duty GMC trucks. Most are about the small trucks.
Writer was GM dealer for 46 years, also selling GM's bigger trucks. Worked exclusively with the MDuty's since their re-introduction in '90. Did up to almost 100 in a year. We have C7500's we sold locally in 1990 & 91 for fuel oil trucks, still in daily service, original kingpins, with no major component repairs, absolutely no rust and man in Nova Scotia we are in rust territory ... but, they had to be intelligently serviced, especially the disc brakes. Hydraulic brake lines being steel, did rust, but cab's didn't. The 4X4's C45 & C5500 are bulletproof, yes they are big and high, but you can get a PTO on the trans which you can't do on a Ford with an automatic....and the truck's foundation, the frames, were flawless. Perhaps too many writers were trying to do a medium duty truck job with a C2500, that certainly would kill it. With other dealers co-op, we were able to acquire all the ones remaining in Atlantic Canada, they're great to sell and service. Toughest, long lasting Tandems with a one thousand pound weight advantage to make the owner's money every trip.

The GMC 4500/5500 class trucks are by far a better truck than dodge with thier pickup front suspension and horrible automatic transmission. And as for ford they are pretty much a joke like previously mentioned with plastic wheel bearings,plastic frames, power joke diesel engine i think every one they ever built has blown up by now and the 6.4 is in the same boat im sure this new diesel engine will be garbage just like ever other thing to come off thier assembly line since 1979. I am a heavy equipment technician i work in an open pit mine in one of the worst environments that there is (northeren Yukon) and all the mine bought was fords after four years they are all dead my 2006 topkick 5500 is still going strong after 45000 miles and 12000HRS!! and the two gm 3500 hd trucks the mine did by are also still working well one has 200000 miles and 26000HRS!!! the other one is simialar, this is proof that gm can still build a better truck than ford or dodge. I mean after all the first and second world wars were all won with thier trucks, the alaska highway was built with thier trucks and the president rides around in one of thier trucks gm still does and always has built the best truck that is available to us in north america hands down.

The c4500/c5500 trucks need to return to market as they are by far the toughest truck that was available in the class4/5 segement the worst thing gm could do is build it in a pickup frame like ford and dodge do. However it may be a good truck if they put the sierra/silverado cab on it except that then they are right back where they were in the 90's with to small a cab, no leg room, way tighter to service and repair ect. Just like ford and dodge.

"They can't even sell the remaining medium-duty trucks they stop making in August 2009. The is f**king pathetic"

Not true, their selling/were selling like crazy (at least around here)

I live north of Truck and Bus Flint and I used to see hundreds of Kodiaks and Topkicks lined up out there but after they quit making them in a short time ALL of them were gone.

Come to think of it a dealer I know of in Flint just sold 2 new 4500s, one was a black crew cab dump loaded out with even pwr windows and locks and another a red regular cab flatbed with a BOSS V plow and salt spreader both 4x4 Diesels each were around $60K.

I also recently stopped by Monroe Truck Equipment who had a full lot when I was there in January only had about half a lot full. About the only thing there were a few 4500/5500s, some 7500s, both a C and T series 8500 Tandem and the rest of the trucks were Fords,

Yeah.....their really not selling well....

I use my Chevy 2500HD for heavy ranch work and haven't had any problems. I especially like the ride in rough hills due to the independent front suspension. If this type of setup wasn't durable or reliable the military wouldn't have it on their vehicles.

i personally hate the top kicks. everything about the truck is a joke. the mirrors dont show enough cause they are set too far into the buckets. the door panels are made of plastic the even fisher price would say is terrible. the seats are a joke. stiff, no give and way to narrow for a larger driver. the controls are spread to wide with in the drivers reach with out having to lean over to flick a switch or adjust something. the step to get in the truck is way too high. it should have 2 steps not just one. the dog house interferes with the foot controls. i think the only good thing i can say about the truck is it isnt a toyota. i will be glad when i get my 4300 international tow truck back from its service and once over. the top kicks should never have been built to start with. just a bad build from the start. i've lost count of how many i have towed in the canadian oilfields.

I have a 95 Kodiak 7500 with a Cat engine and Allison transmission with almost 400k miles never had any problems..take care of ur truck and it will take care of u..any truck will break down if u work it hard and barely service the engine and transmission...

I remember the day when chev and gmc c65/6500 were the truck to have my vfather made a good living with theswe trucks in the 70s and 80s and when we had a school bus contract we run all GM gas and diesel I work at a GM dealer now and find it disconerting to hear all the problem the last generation of GM medium dutys have If tge General is going to get back into the truck bussines they should look back before moving forward



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