January 14, 2013
DETROIT -- Sales of General Motors' aging pickups have lagged lately. But one long-in-the-tooth nameplate is hot: the Chevrolet Avalanche.
Sales of the outgoing pricey pickup in 2012 were up 19 percent, to 23,995. Sales of GM's full-sized Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups rose 2 percent for the year.
Dealers say that some Avalanche owners -- a particularly loyal fan base -- are eager to buy the quirky truck's final model-year version. Production of the 2013 Avalanche and its Cadillac Escalade EXT sibling will end within a few months in Silao, Mexico, a GM spokesman says. Next month will be the last chance for dealers to order the Avalanche.
"I think there has been some resurgence because people know it's the last year for it," says Tim Colussy, co-owner of Colussy Chevrolet in Bridgeville, Pa., near Pittsburgh. In 2012, his Avalanche sales totaled 16, up from 12 in 2011.
"It's got a pretty loyal following, so people who've bought them in the past are trading in and up to a new one," he says.
The Avalanche, launched in 2001 as a 2002 model, features unusual styling and a midgate, a cargo door at the rear of the passenger cabin that allows the bed to extend into the cab. Its lofty price tag -- $36,975 for a base 2013, including shipping -- make it a low-volume, high-margin seller for most dealers.
Enhancements that GM added for the final model year, as well as a lower price, have stoked demand. A 2013 Black Diamond edition includes body-colored bed surrounds and a unique badge, as well as the addition of a rear camera, rear park assist, power adjustable pedals, fog lamps and remote start as standard equipment.
"We knew there is a core group of buyers who really like the Avalanche, so this special edition was partly an incentive to get them off the couch to go buy one," the spokesman says.
Martin NeSmith, owner of two Chevrolet-Buick-GMC stores in Georgia, will miss the Avalanche -- not just in his showroom. He drives one as his personal vehicle.
"It's a niche market, but it's always been a good seller for us," NeSmith says. "It suits me where a Tahoe doesn't. You can use it for work or pleasure."
NeSmith understands GM's decision to discontinue the low-volume pickup but believes "it's a terrible mistake." He says: "Everyone who's got an Avalanche loves it."