'Good return' expected for dealers with Chevy Silverado 4500HD/5500HD

DETROIT — General Motors plans to expand its dealer network for medium-duty commercial vehicles this year from 240 to about 400 with the introduction of Chevy Silverado 4500HD and 5500HD trucks.

Ed Peper, GM U.S. vice president of fleet and commercial sales, said the Class 4 and Class 5 chassis cab trucks should “be a good return on investment” for dealers who are committed to commercial sales.

“Our dealers really wanted us to get back into that segment,” he told Automotive News at the auto show here. The expected dealer levels, he said, would be close to the 450 stores that sold the vehicles before GM exited the segment during the company’s 2009 bankruptcy.

GM previously had a 25 to 30 percent share of the Class 4 and Class 5 market, which Peper said it plans to regain eventually with the new vehicles.

“We saw a big opportunity,” he said, adding that GM forecasts three adjacent sales of other vehicles with each medium-duty truck sold.

GM plans to open dealer registration to sell the trucks during the first quarter. Requirements include training for sales and service staff on commercial vehicles as well as parts and other specifications such as service door heights and lifts to accommodate the trucks.

GM estimates the cost to meet the requirements at $ 100,000 to $ 200,000. However, John Schwegman, GM’s U.S. director of commercial product and medium duty, said, “Most dealers have many of the facility requirements already.” Incremental training and parts could cost just $ 10,000 to $ 15,000 for those dealers, he said.

“This business is not for someone who wants to dabble,” Schwegman said. “If you’re not committed to the commercial business, it probably doesn’t make sense.”

Unlike a decade ago, GM does not plan to sell a medium-duty GMC truck, according to execs.

“Chevy is the mega-brand. … They’ve got to carry the load with commercial,” Peper said.

Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick and GMC, said the trucks would have “fit nicely” with GMC’s “Professional Grade” motto, but fleet sales fit better under Chevrolet. In an interview, he said GM figured there wasn’t enough volume in the segment to support entries under two brands.

GM partnered with Navistar International Corp. to develop and produce the trucks in Springfield, Ohio. It is scheduled to unveil the vehicles in March at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

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