Is GMC Really Serious About the Denali XT?

February 12, 2008
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Our story on the Toyota A-Bat concept got you talking -- so while you're thinking about small trucks with hybrid powertrains, help us figure out how serious GMC is about building that Denali XT concept that it unveiled at the Chicago auto show?

True to its pre-show buzz, the Denali XT's a pretty nifty idea that poses more questions than it answers. And boy, do we have a few. Start with the easy one: Are we really ready for more El Caminos and Caballeros? So dissed by the enthusiast mags in their day, the El Camino and its brother, el Caballero, have come full circle and have an honest, but small network of fans, just like the cliques that worship the ground old AMCs still run on. For the anti-establishment crowd wanting to make a statement--but still needing a utility bed to throw stuff in--a Denali XT might be a suitable ticket.

Another question: Will full-size truck buyers be willing to downsize like van buyers once did? CAFE changes are coming and trucks will have to get more efficient. It's a repeat of the scenarios that made the El Caminos a little more digestible in the 1970s--only now, with a four-seat body and a flexible bed (not to mention an upscale interior treatment), there's plenty of reason to figure that at least some buyers can be weaned off their big trucks. The virtual disappearance of true small trucks could help make the case too, as could the popularity of crew-cab mid-size trucks.

Say it gets the green light from GM. Will the Denali's flex-fuel, hybrid V-8 be enough to counter hundreds of thousands of big V-8 Sierras in the CAFE woodpile? The concept's V-8 is GM's first two-mode hybrid that also can run on E85 ethanol fuel. It's also 4.9 liters in displacement, versus the 5.3-liter flex-fuel V-8s found elsewhere in GM's lineup. And no doubt a V-6 version would end up in the lineup. But would it shift enough buyers into the higher-mileage category to matter?

No matter what the scenario, something so radical as a Denali XT will be a gamble. Maybe the right way to do it, is the way GM seems to be headed. Make the car-based truck part of a car lineup--wearing a Pontiac G8 badge, for example. That way, GMC builds real pickups, and this kind of truck experiment doesn't seriously damage a strong brand.

Tell us whether you think GMC should build the Denali XT in a comment below -- and keep your browsers pointed here for more GMC news from the New York auto show in March. In the meantime, here's some GM video from the Chicago auto show for your senses:

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