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Take a Look at GM's New High-End Silverado Truck

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- GM (GM - Get Report) isn't just rolling out a new pickup truck, it is also rolling out a new high-end pickup truck, the Silverado High Country.

High Country was unveiled Monday at a media test-drive event in San Antonio, in the Texas hill country. "Where else do you introduce pickup trucks?" said James Bell, GM head of consumer affairs, in an interview.

Bell said 30% of pickup truck buyers spend $40,000 or more for their trucks, while the basic 2014 Silverado will start at around $24,000. " Ford (F - Get Report) has a Platinum line that sells like hot cakes," he said. "GMC has one in the Denali."

Pickup trucks are profit centers for the big three automakers, typically producing a profit of $8,000 to $10,000 per vehicle, far more than for a small automobile. This is why so much importance is attached to the rollout of the new Chevrolet Silverado. It began production this month and will start to arrive at dealers during the current quarter, enabling GM to enhance truck pricing, which has been diminished by incentives as older trucks are moved out.

Who wants a pricey premium model? "If you're in commercial real estate and you have investors with you, and you're asking them to spend $50 million on a building, you want a luxurious user-appointed truck," said auto consultant Rebecca Lindland, who attended the Texas event. "Or if you're a general contractor, at the site all day and going to a black tie fundraiser, you clean yourself up and use a beautiful truck to get to this function.

"People are buying one vehicle that needs to do many different things now, and they are demanding more of their vehicles," Lindland said.

GM said the High Country is distinguished from the standard Silverado by a unique chrome grille with horizontal chrome bars, halogen projector headlamps, body-color front and rear bumpers and 20-inch chrome wheels. The interior is saddle brown and includes heated and cooled premium leather front bucket seats with High Country logos on the headrests.

The available V-8 engines offer direct fuel injection and switch to four-cylinder mode to save fuel during light-load driving.

Bell conceded that the overall Silverado redesign "has been a little bit conservative.

"It look like a GM pickup truck," he said. "We wanted to make it available to the loyal Chevy or GMC truck buyer. The old one was in the market for a long time, and the F-150 leapfrogged it.

"The truck buyer is not looking for a swoopy little aerodynamic sports car," he said, while pickup trucks are squared off. As far as consumer loyalties to Ford or Chevrolet, Lindland said that "from a style standpoint, it's the difference between Burger King and McDonald's. It's just a preference, (often) with a family heritage as well."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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