GMC eyes Sierra 1500 to lift Denali

GMC eyes Sierra 1500 to lift Denali

SAN DIEGO — GMC’s Denali premium subbrand, touted as a “money machine” for General Motors, showed signs of slowing in 2018.

While retail average transaction prices for Denali models continued to rise last year to about $55,600, GM said, their sales leveled off at 29 percent of GMC’s retail volume, the same as a year earlier, after several years of steady growth.

GMC Vice President Duncan Aldred says he believes Denali still has plenty of lift left, and he’s looking to the redesigned 2019 Sierra 1500 to provide some of it.

Denali models accounted for roughly 25 percent of Sierra 1500 retail sales in 2018. “We can increase that, and we are going to sell more volume of HDs, I’m sure of that,” he told Automotive News here after the debut of the 2020 GMC Sierra HD models.

Meanwhile, GMC is nurturing a new subbrand, AT4, which launched last year on the Sierra 1500. The company plans to expand the off-road trim across the lineup, which could pit it against Denali, as AT4 is priced one tier lower.

Six months into the launch of the 2019 Sierra 1500, Aldred said AT4 hasn’t encroached on Denali sales, “so signs are good.”

“And anywhere when we talk about nearly a third of sales being Denali, it’s an exceptional business,” he said.

Demand for AT4 — the 2019 Sierra’s fastest-selling model — has been “significantly higher” than the 20 percent of sales it represents for the pickup, Phil Brook, vice president of GMC marketing, said last month in an interview.

GM has sold roughly 1.25 million Denali units since the trim debuted on the 1999 Yukon, Aldred said. In later years, it was added to the Yukon XL and Sierra full-size pickup, and ultimately trickled down to the Acadia and Terrain crossovers.

Aldred said Denali’s steady take rate of 29 percent (about 135,500 units) is still well beyond what he expected when he took over GMC in 2014. At the time, Denali models accounted for fewer than 20 percent of GMC retail sales, or roughly 74,800 units. (Retail accounted for 85 percent of GMC sales in 2017, the most recent year for which GM provided data.)

Aldred said the growth of Denali has helped GMC push its overall average transaction prices 40 percent higher than those of mainstream brands. GM says the Denali models’ average prices of $55,000-plus put the subbrand in a tier with some German luxury brands and Cadillac.

During a presentation to investors in January 2018, then-GM President Dan Ammann described Denali as a “sleeper hit” and a “money machine.”

Aldred, who is also vice president of Buick, is trying to fire up that machine with Avenir, the upscale subbrand that debuted in 2017 on the 2018 Buick Enclave. Despite a rollout strategy that’s similar to Denali’s, GM initially put a lower price premium on Avenir models.

Brook, who also oversees Buick marketing, said Avenir has been a strong addition for the large crossover, representing about 20 percent of Enclave sales, with additional signs of potential growth.

Buick has expanded Avenir to the LaCrosse and Regal cars for the U.S. Aldred previously said Avenir would “roll out across many more models and maybe the whole range over time.” Avenir also is offered on the GL8 minivan in China.

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