By Jeff Gilbert

PONTIAC (WWJ/AP)  -With smoke, fireworks and special effects, General Motors used a Pontiac movie studio to unveil its very important new pickup trucks.

Video: WWJ’s Jeff Gilbert reports on the new GM Pickups.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra will arrive in dealerships this summer. GM North America President Mark Reuss says that could coincide with an improving economy and improving housing market.

“We think we’re timing this very well, in terms of construction and growth in the economy,” he said.

The models roll into a market where truck sales are growing after a five-year slump. And GM’s current trucks are looking dated, hurting sales. The current trucks, last revamped in 2007, are the oldest on the market and have fallen behind newer models from Ford and Chrysler.

The new trucks were delayed by GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. They represent the start of a new product offensive from the company, which–GM says–will mean an updating of 80 percent of their product portfolio.

“We are the oldest portfolio car and truck in the industry right now,” says Reuss. “We’ve got great products, but we’re the oldest. We’re going to turn as fast as we can, starting with this.”

The revamped Silverados and Sierras are aimed at putting GM back in front in the competitive pickup market. They look similar to the old models, but are a little more aggressive and aerodynamic-looking. The company also says the trucks will have stronger, quieter cabs, and updated steering, suspensions and brakes.

GM is offering a choice of three revamped engines: a 262-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 that GM says can tow a substantial trailer; a 325-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 will get better mileage than the current model, which gets 22 mpg on the highway; and a 6.2-liter V-8 with 376 horsepower.

Gas mileage and pricing of the trucks was not released Thursday.

LMC Automotive Analyst Jeff Schuster was impressed with the new vehicles.

“Very visible improvement, both in the exterior, the interior features, as well as focusing on noise reduction and improved powertrain.”

The GMC and Chevy trucks, which are essentially the same vehicle, also will get six-speed automatic transmissions on all models, which should improve gas mileage. Some six cylinder models now have older four-speed transmissions that aren’t as efficient.

All three new engines have efficient direct fuel injection, and GM says they can switch seamlessly to run on only four cylinders to use less gas. The engines will have more torque and power than the older models.

General Motors has been dealing with a glut of its current model pickups. At the end of November, they had a 139 day supply. A 60 day supply is considered optimal.

GM’s Mark Reuss says a new round of more generous incentives has improved sales, and is helping them put their inventories in balance.

“We’re selling through that right now in December,” he said. “We’re looking really good. We’re in a good place we think. We’ll have enough trucks to sell for our dealers and our customers next year.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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