NAIAS 2018: 5 Questions With Chevrolet’s Sandor Piszar


2019 Chevrolet Silverado

Our latest report from the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit:

Days before the meteorite fireball exploded over the skies just a few miles away, Chevrolet created its own spectacle in downtown Detroit at NAIAS 2018 by unveiling the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.

The newest version of Chevy’s most important product has shed about 450 fuel-saving pounds from the previous version that’s currently on the market, and has added a number of new ergonomic and technology features. Its diesel engine will also be made in Flint, Michigan.

Every little edge is important as Chevrolet continues its decades-long tussle for supremacy in the highest-profit segment of the U.S. auto market with Ford’s F-150 pickup, America’s best-selling individual nameplate for decades running, and with a new version of the Ram truck due out this year.

Chevy also has created an edge with its introduction of the Colorado mid-size pickup a few years ago.

Sandor Piszar - Chevrolet Director of Marketing, GM“Chevy is the only brand with a three-truck line-up” including a heavy-duty sub-brand of Silverado, Sandor Piszar (right), GM’s director of Chevrolet marketing, told brandchannel on the floor of 2018 NAIAS. “In fact, GM has sold more pickup trucks for the last four years than our competitors.”

Piszar shared more about how Chevy is positioning its overhauled entry in the robust pickup segment in our latest NAIAS Q&A:

Sandor, what are the most significant features about the new Silverado that will make it a stronger competitor to F-150 and the new Ram? 

There are some key things. Strength is certainly a factor, and GM is approaching this segment with a smarter way to go to market—a mixed-materials strategy that involves the right material for the right application.

Silverado has a steel bed; F-150 has an aluminum bed. So part of your marketing the new Silverado will focus on continuing to take swipes at the aluminum bed in the F-150? One of your counterparts at Ford told us that these efforts haven’t hurt sales or consideration for the F-150.

You wouldn’t use a hammer made of aluminum to pound something. We’re the leader in high-strength steel for beds, and we’re taking that to the next level. We’re maximizing the volume of that bed, and even our short box features a higher volume than the standard box of competitors.

We also have a power-up-and-down tailgate, and we have integrated tie-downs in each corner of the truck, which feature twice the strength of the [tiedowns] in the current truck. We also have nine moveable tie-downs. For truck folks using the truck for real work, these are very real and important innovations. We also have a corner-step bumper to accommodate steel boots. It’s the most versatile bed in the industry.

Silverado has been part of Chevy’s “Real People, Not Actors” brand campaign in recent years. Will that continue with the new truck?

You will see us maintain our “Real People, Not Actors” message because it resonates with consumers in a very relatable way. People connect with that and will focus on the strengths of trucks and what makes a Chevy truck the right buy.

It’s a creative construct that has given Chevy a high level of flexibility. We’re able to truck it up and give a very specific message that appeals to truck customers. Real people are truck folks. The message we’re conveying and the environment are all very truck-centric.

It has lifted the entire Chevy brand and builds awareness and alignment as tiers 1 and 2 and 3 all have the same, cohesive messaging and go-to-market strategy. It’s a truck-specific message, but it still fits the brand.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

How else are you engaging customers in the new Silverado? 

Beyond “Real People” you’ll see a message about being the most dependable, longest-lasting pickups on the road. Dependability is one of the top reasons for purchase. We don’t take that lightly. Everything we do to engineer this truck reinforces that mindset, down to our powertrain lineup with the availability of six powertrains.

Ford introduced a new Ranger mid-size pickup truck at NAIAS this week in a bid to catch up with the Chevy Colorado. And yet just a few years ago most people in the industry were saying that the “lifestyle” buyer for smaller pickups was a thing of the past. What happened?

Obviously we’re flattered by the launch of the Ranger. We’ve sold more than 300,000 Colorados since launch and it’s been a huge success. We’re building every truck we can and we have continually invested in this space since launch. It’s an important part of our go-to-market strategy (and) a distinct buyer from larger pickups.

Certainly there has been a core pickup buyer through economic highs and lows but there is an opportunity for growth again with first-time buyers. In the specific case of the mid-size truck segment, research showed that it’s not that people didn’t want a mid-size (truck) but that it had to meet their needs.

They weren’t finding the technology and comfort features that they wanted. Colorado ignited the entire segment. That was a win for Chevy but it also brought back mid-size trucks and increased sales for competitors too. Suddenly competitors are waking up to the fact that mid-size is growing and coming back.

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