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Auto blogSat, 29 Mar 2014 10:48:00 EST
General Motors can't seem to get its name out of the "bad news" column. Two more recalls were announced late Friday evening that will see The General calling in 490,200 fullsize pickup trucks and SUVs, along with 172,000 Chevrolet Cruze models.
For those keeping track, General Motors has issued recalls for an alarming 4.8 million vehicles so far since last month.
The Chevy Silverado 1500, Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Sierra 1500 and Yukon models from the 2014 and 2015 model years are being recalled for a flaw in their transmissions wherein loose oil cooler lines may cause a fire. The automaker said in a statement (see below) that it knows of three incidents of loose transmission lines causing problems, but no injuries. We can't confirm whether it was this transmission issue that caused the widely publicized blaze that consumed a 2015 GMC Yukon that was being test driven in California.
Automotive enthusiasts often wonder aloud - ourselves included - why General Motors would choose to keep GMC while sending Pontiac (and Saturn, and even Oldsmobile before it) into the great automotive graveyard in the sky. The answer, as is so often the case, is profit. It's much easier for GM to rake in money hand over fist by rejiggering the trucks, crossovers and SUVs that it would already be developing for Chevrolet and making them a bit more luxurious and *ahem* "Professional Grade" with new grilles, badges and unique packaging for GMC.
While it may sound like we're being cynical, we totally approve of GM's fullsize SUV strategy. The least-expensive way to get into the fold is with the Chevrolet Tahoe, which starts at $45,595 with a 5.3-liter V8 engine and a cloth interior. Bumping that same Chevy to LTZ trim and its $59,995 sticker price lands a much nicer leather-clad interior and more techno-bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. But it still looks like a Tahoe, and it still comes with the smaller 5.3-liter engine. Or, you could do what we'd do: Walk into your GMC dealer and take a look at the Yukon Denali. Here's why.
A 2015 GMC Yukon burst into flames while on a test drive in Anaheim, CA on Sunday after smoke filled the cabin. Residents of the neighborhood where the driver abandoned the redesigned Yukon reported hearing a series of small explosions (likely the tires, based on the video), according to a report from KTLA and The Los Angeles Times.
No one was injured in the incident, which The Times reports occurred after a possible oil or fluid leak. As you can see in the image above, the Yukon was engulfed in flames, although the Anaheim Fire Department was able to put out the blaze in about 15 minutes.
"We're very lucky that no one got hurt, and it was in an area that... was safe," Lt. Tim Schmidt of the Anaheim Police Department told KTLA reporters. "If there was any place that was going to be safe, it would be this area. It's very open. It worked out for us."
The Denali trim that GMC uses to denote its top-of-the-line vehicles was introduced back in 1999, partly as a way to challenge the recently introduced Lincoln Navigator. Fifteen years later, and with GMC the tenth-largest US automotive brand by itself Denali has become a sub-brand that keeps the cash registers ringing at the Renaissance Center HQ. While GMC increased sales by 9 percent in 2013, TheDetroitBureau.com reports that that Denali sales rose by 20 percent.
There are currently five Denali models in the GMC line, with the Denali trim available on all but its commercial vans. In 2010, when the now-discontinued Yukon XL Hybrid was also on sale, GMC sold 32,886 units of its top trim. Last year, that number had increased to 75,558, with almost no help from traditional marketing spends. Go to YouTube and search for "GMC Denali commercials" - the few actual commercial results are from years ago. GMC marketing director Roger McCormack tells TheDetroitBureau.com, "It's largely all been organic."
As sales have grown, so has the tide of money GMC rakes in from the additional luxury features on Denali models. The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe starts at $44,600, yet its 2014 Yukon Denali doppelganger starts at $58,320, pricing that includes additional features like the larger 6.2-liter V8, nicer interior, head-up display and magnetic ride control suspension. The Yukon XL Denali starts at $60,965, but the article says the "average customer" likely to spend "up and above $70,000" to take one home. How does that happen? On a top-trim Tahoe LTZ, the top-tier wheel option is a set of 20-inch chrome wheels for $400; on the 'base' Yukon Denali you can swap for a set of 22-inch chrome alloys for $2,995. Add it up, and an analyst at AutoTrends Consulting said that kind of margin "epitomizes the concept of obscene profitability." We say when it comes to Denali, GMC appears to stand for "Grabbing More Cash."
Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:39:00 EST
General Motors has been enduring some serious problems with recalls recently, and it is hoping to avoid launching another major safety campaign. 200,921 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are under the microscope due to a rare problem with their instruments, an issue GM calls calls "inconsequential to motor vehicle safety." The Detroit-based automaker believes that the glitch is so minor that it has filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking the government safety watchdog for permission to pass on recalling the vehicles.
The fault at issue can occasionally cause the instrument cluster to reset when drivers use the steering wheel controls to browse songs from an external media device connected to the truck's USB ports. If a song's title information exceeds 2,000 bytes, according to The Detroit News, then the instrument panel can reset, which in turn causes the gauges, shift position indicator and cruise control telltale to turn off briefly. When rebooting, other instrument panel lights may briefly illuminate without their functions actually being activated. GM claims that if this does happen, the instrument display lights go out for about 1.5 seconds and the bulb check lasts a further five seconds. However, this snafu has no actual affect on the truck's operation. The glitch is present in trucks built between January 29, 2013, and October 28, 2013.
We met the redesigned 2015 versions of the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL at the 2013 LA Auto Show. Improved gas mileage numbers have been announced to go along with the improved exteriors and interiors, with city mileage improving by seven percent and highway mileage going up by nearly ten percent; you'll now get 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway.
The only applies to models with the 5.3-liter engine, though, not the premium Yukon Denali and Yukon XL Denali SUVs with the 6.2-liter motor. Still, the 5.3 gets you more power than previously, with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque underfoot, on top of the improved fuel economy numbers. The 6.2-liter sticks with official mpg ratings of 15 highway, 21 city. There's a brief press release below with words straight from the horse's mouth.
The guys behind Motor Trend's monthly Roadkill series have collected nine of their favorite project cars from their videos and pitted them against each other in a battle royale to determine a winner. It's 44 minutes long, but it's completely worth the investment of time.
The cars run the gamut from a 1973 Chevrolet Ramp Truck, a 1975 AMC Pacer and a legitimately impressive 1967 Chevy Camaro, and they are pitted against each other to see which is the fastest around an autocross course. The drivers include Roadkill's two hosts and Motor Trend's Johnny Lieberman and Carlos Lago. It's reminiscent of the best episodes of Top Gear and worth a watch.
So it's the weekend - the perfect time to relax. Grab your preferred beverage, get comfortable and enjoy 44 minutes of some seriously ratty but utterly cool project cars as they are throttled within an inch of their lives (or past it). Scroll down to check out the video.
Ford's extensive use of aluminum in its 2015 F-150 is a big deal. A really big deal. Big enough, in fact, that General Motors is reportedly changing its fullsize pickup strategy. According to The Wall Street Journal, The General has locked in partnerships with Alcoa Inc. and Novelis Inc. - companies that will supply aluminum for the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks.
"Ford's introduction of the 2015 F-150 pickup truck was a game changer, and it's the first, not the last, conversion of this type," Novelis spokesperson Charles Belbin told the Journal. The switch to aluminum has allowed Ford to shave roughly 700 pounds off its fullsize truck's curb weight. And while official mileage ratings have not been announced, the weight loss should go a long way for improving efficiency, especially when combined other efficiency-minded improvements including better aerodynamics and new, turbocharged V6 engines.
Of course, aluminum-bodied cars are nothing new. But extensive use of aluminum in a major, best-selling product like the Ford F-150 is expected to kick off widespread use of this weight-saving material as availability rises and cost decreases. The WSJ reports that GM had originally explored the idea of moving to aluminum pickups back in 2008, but abandoned the idea due to cost concerns amid economic woes.
Car buyers have a responsibility to be well-informed consumers. That's not always a very simple task, but some guidelines are self-evident. If you live in a very snowy climate, you generally know a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro might not be as viable a vehicle choice as an all-wheel drive Explorer or Traverse, for example. If you want a fuel-efficient car, it's generally a good idea to know the difference between a diesel and a hybrid. But what if it's kind of tough to be an informed consumer? What if the information you need is more difficult to come by, or worse, based on different standards for each vehicle? Well, in that case, you might be a truck shopper.
For years, customers of light-duty pickups have had to suffer through different ratings of towing capacities for each brand. For 2015 model year trucks, though, that will no longer be a problem. According to Automotive News, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler Group have announced that starting with next year's models, a common standard will be used to measure towing capacity. The Detroit Three will join Toyota, which adopted the Society of Automotive Engineers' so-called SAE J2807 standards way back in 2011.
The standard was originally supposed to be in place for MY2013, but concerns that it would lower the overall stated capacity for trucks led Detroit automakers to pass. Ford originally passed, claiming it'd wait until its new F-150 was launched to adopt the new standards, leading GM and Ram to follow suit. Nissan, meanwhile, has said it will adopt the new standards as its vehicles are updated, meaning the company's next-generation Titan should adhere to the same tow ratings as its competitors.
For years, GMC has existed as a brand without a single unique product, reconstituting Chevrolet trucks, SUVs and crossovers with more frosting in exchange for a few extra dollars. The Sierra is a Silverado, the Acadia a Traverse, and the Terrain an Equinox, although admittedly the latter pair are visually differentiated to a significant degree.
GMC could be set to expand beyond its Chevy-based roots, though. During last week's Detroit Auto Show press days, GM's product boss Mark Reuss was asked whether there'd ever be a GMC that wasn't taken from Chevy. "Oh, yes, you will," Reuss told the media. "The health of GMC is astonishingly good from a consideration standpoint." Reuss wouldn't elaborate on what the model could be, although we're quite happy to make some guesses. GMC has its bases fairly well covered, with a mid-size and full-size crossover, as well as a mid-size, full-size and HD pickup. We doubt GMC will be building a family sedan, sports car, or hatchback, so really, the only place we can see the brand going is into a smaller crossover.
Automotive News points out that the most recent small GMC showcar, the 2010 Granite concept (shown above), won't see production according to General Motors. That vehicle likely would have rode on GM's compact vehicle architecture, known internally as Gamma II, which underpins the Chevy Spark and Sonic, as well as the Buick Encore (and its overseas Opel/Vauxhall/Chevy counterparts).