Racing seats, grippier tires and attention-grabbing grilles have long been packaged to create fancy versions of Corvettes and Camaros. Now Chevy is applying the concept to its awesome pickups in the form of roll bars, all-terrain assist steps and camouflage paint jobs.
Last year, Chevy introduced its Midnight special-edition Silverado 1500 with blacked-out everything: wheels, bumpers, grille, even the bowtie. Over 6,000 copies sold out within a few months, goading Chevrolet to add similar versions for its Colorado midsize pickup and Silverado 2500 Heavy Duty for the 2016 model year. They join an expanding list of special-edition models with names such as Realtree, Rally and Special Ops, with more in the making.
Chevy's fast approach is an effort to counter rivals Ram and Ford, and it reflects GM's goal of continuously updating its top-selling U.S. vehicle throughout its life span, an effort that executives acknowledge was lacking with the last-generation Silverado.
"The special editions sell in relatively low volumes. But the idea is to generate "new news" for a not-so-new truck, while tapping into a fan base whose passion rivals that of sports-car customers", says Sandor Piszar, Chevy's director of truck marketing.
"The truck guys are as enthusiastic about their trucks as the Camaro guys are about their Camaros," said Piszar, who was marketing director of Chevy's performance line from 2011 to 2014. "It's not a one-size, one-look-fits-all approach with trucks anymore. You can really target niche buyers."
For example, some want lots of chrome. Others prefer the blacked-out look. There are all-terrain models for thrill-seekers and street-performance packages for city folks. There's even something for budget buyers, like Chevy's Black Out model, introduced last year, which gives the black treatment to its base Silverado work truck.
Chevy's competitors have long been active in seeking out special markets. Ford has carried a wider variety of permanent models, such as the King Ranch or off-road Raptor, and offers appearance packages that can be added as options across much of its lineup, and the Midnight special-edition Silverado spurred similar versions for other trucks.
For the 2016 model year, for example, Ford began offering a chrome package for the F-150 base XL through the King Ranch, adding chrome bumpers, silver-painted wheels and other brightwork. A Special Edition Package for higher trims goes even further, with Alcantara leather inserts, red interior stitching and 20-inch dark-painted aluminum wheels.
Ram also has been adding to its team of specialty pickups, which include the stunning Laramie Longhorn and rugged Outdoorsman. Recent entries include a Black Express package for light- and heavy-duty models and a new off-road edition of its 2500 pickup.
Beyond the buzz, the specialty pickups are generating extra revenue in the form of accessory sales. Even with all the extras, buyers are more inclined than the average pickup customer to accessorize, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President Brian Sweeney said in an interview last month.
"We're finding the special-edition packages are turning buyers onto our accessory portfolio even more," he said. "They'll say, "I've got the roll bar on the Colorado Midnight edition. Now I want to add those LED lights to it.'"
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