Dig That Diesel? GMC Claims New Oil-burner Gets ’em In the Door


Image: GM

Compared to the clattery, soot-spewing 350 diesel that helped sink General Motors’ reputation in the 1980s, the 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six introduced in the automaker’s full-size pickups late last year is a refined affair. It’s also making something of a reputation for itself, drawing buyers to the company’s truck-only brand who might otherwise have looked elsewhere in the industry for a pickup.

GMC now says it’s targeting a surprising take rate for the Flint-built engine.

Speaking to Automotive News, the division says a survey of Durmax-powered Sierra conducted in March revealed interesting statistics.While respondents where no stranger to the full-size pickup segment, more than two-thirds had never owned a diesel truck before. More notably, more than half of respondents were new to the GMC brand.

That’s juicy stuff for GMC, as it indicates the 3.0L oil-burner is generating conquest sales for the division. Ford and Ram both offer a light-duty diesel of the same displacement, albeit in an unsexy V6 configuration. In two-wheel drive guise, the Duramax Sierra returns an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mph combined, a significant increase from gas V8 models. A comparable Ford F-150 with 3.0L Power Stroke returns 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.

Ram’s super legal, current-generation EcoDiesel tops the GM diesel in combined driving, but boasts a 32 mpg highway rating.

Over the course of a week, a Duramax-equipped Chevy Silverado 1500 tickled reviewer Chris Tonn in all the right places, wooing him with 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque that came without a side dish of NVH and coal-rolling clouds. Fuel economy topped his expectations.

GMC plans to leverage the positives that generated the engine’s early accolades to further increase consumer interest.

“We have to get a bit more awareness out there for how good our diesel is,” said Phil Brook, GMC’s vice president of marketing, in an interview with AN.

After learning, via the survey, that 35 percent of Sierra buyers were new to the brand (a smaller percentage than Sierra diesel buyers), Brook said the division realized how how important the 3.0L could be for GMC. The division now thinks it can get the diesel’s take rate to one-in-five. Already, Brook said, the diesel take rate among high-end AT4 and Denali buyers stands at 15 percent.

Those buyers wouldn’t be interested in a diesel if it came with the stereotypical lack of refinement.

“The engineers have really done that for us,” Brook said, adding that Duramax-equipped Sierras spend, on average, half the time on the lot as their gasoline counterparts. “They have produced an engine that is an absolute standout.”

[Image: General Motors]

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