Planet Gore

New GM CEO’s First Public Appearance Is for a Pickup Truck


Mary Barra has been getting a lot of attention as the first woman tapped to lead a major automaker, but Sunday night she tried to shift attention away from herself and to General Motors’ newest pickup truck.

Barra, in her first public appearance since being named to be the next CEO of the nation’s largest automaker, kicked off GM (GMFortune 500)’s publicity efforts at the Detroit auto show by unveiling the GMC Canyon, a midsize pickup. She takes over on Wednesday.

Barra started the presentation saying she was “honored to stand here tonight and humbly lead this team.”

There’s a reason she led with the pickup, however. New regulations are forcing the automakers to make lighter vehicles and Chevy’s answer was to make a smaller truck; Ford’s answer was to use more aluminum:

But for Barra, drawing attention to GM’s two midsize pickups, the GMC Canyon and the recently unveiled Chevrolet Colorado, will be difficult at this year’s Detroit show.

That’s because one of the hottest vehicles at the show this week is sure to be the redesigned Ford F-150 full-size pickup.

Ford’s truck, which has significantly more aluminum will be unveiled Monday.

Ford (FFortune 500) has made a somewhat risky bet to use more aluminum on its most important vehicle. Aluminum could increase production costs and while it’s lighter, it is also more difficult to work with than steel.

All automakers will have to find a way to improve the average fuel economy of their full range of U.S. vehicle sales to meet tough new federal regulations. Those rules will demand a 54.5 mile per gallon average for the automakers by the 2025 model year.

GM tried a different gamble, hoping that it can attract buyers and attention to the midsize pickup segment that has never gotten much of either in the past.

We shall see who wins, but my money would be on Ford.

Chevrolet, however, has won both the “car of the year” and “truck of the year” awards: the Corvette Stingray and full-size Silverado. The 2011 “car of the year” was the Chevy Volt. I guess GM has learned its lesson.