Pick-up cab design: GM addresses work and lifestyle demands

GMC’s Design Manager speaks to Megan Lampinen about the evolution of truck interiors

Pick-ups are a huge money maker for automakers. General Motors generates at least US$17,000 in pre-tax profit for every large pick-up it sells. That’s according to Reuters, citing GM disclosures to investors. The pick-up segment is huge in the US, GM’s home market, where it accounted for 18.3% of new vehicle sales in 2021. That makes it the second largest segment in the US, following only crossovers. With so much at stake, getting the design right is pivotal.

Pick-ups are a challenging segment in that they function both as work vehicles and lifestyle models. That means the cab design needs to facilitate both use cases. Automotive World caught up with Brian Izard, Interior Design Manager for the GMC brand, to hear more about the evolution of cab design and the secret to meeting the segment’s rapidly evolving needs.

GMC Canyon Denali interior
GMC Canyon Denali interior

“Truck cabs have become larger over the past couple of decades as the segment has grown its retail sales to include more families,” explains Izard. “For some buyers, pick-ups have replaced the traditional family sedan.” Advocates point out that pick-ups can carry up to six people and tow a wide range of things, meaning the same vehicle used for work during the week can also handle the weekend family getaway—bringing along the boat or the quad is no problem. These vehicles are also well suited for off-road driving.

But these are not the rough and ready interiors of old. Izard notes that “more premium materials and technology have also been added to trucks,” and these days larger screens and features like Super Cruise and heads-up-displays are available. Comfort levels in general have also increased thanks in part to heated and cooled seats and massage seat functions.

For some buyers, pick-ups have replaced the traditional family sedan

The spotlight recently shone on the GMC Canyon, which came out with a redesigned interior for the 2023 model year. The Canyon is positioned as GM’s off-road mid-size pick-up player and is offered in the US and Canada. The revamp was an exciting opportunity for Izard and his team to introduce some fresh changes. “Each trim has a unique colourway and persona crafted to resonate with our customers,” he tells Automotive World. Trim levels for the 2023 model year include Elevation, AT4, Denali, and the new rugged AT4X.

The aim was to blend class-leading design and materials with clever storage throughout. He is particularly proud of the closeout panel behind the large centre infotainment screen: “This panel not only hides the fasteners that securely attach this digital display, but is also sculpted to hold a pair of sunglasses. This illustrates our approach of maximising every millimetre to look great and function well.”

2023 GMC Canyon
2023 GMC Canyon

The Canyon’s cockpit is described as “technology-focused” and features a more dynamic, high-resolution infotainment screen and driver information centre. The updated system boasts a ten-camera view system, which is more camera views than any other competitor in its class. An off-road performance display allows drivers to track real-time, off-road performance data on the centre screen.

While many pick-up drivers use these vehicles as their workplace, Izard says the focus with the new Canyon interior was more directed at creating a ”dynamic, lifestyle environment.”. He adds: “The interior design stands out in the segment as the only premium mid-size truck.”

Interior second row seating means many models can accommodate six individuals

Looking ahead, the global pick-up market could be worth US$253.93bn by 2028, up from US$181.51bn in 2021, according to predictions from SkyQuest Technology Consulting. That growth will be powered not only by demand in North America but also Asia, particularly China where the segment has been increasing at about 15% per year. Sunny Yang, Research Director at supplier JTEKT Corporation, attributes this to “the growing popularity of off-road activities and cargo transportation; consumer demand for large pick-ups with improved fuel economy; and increasing urbanisation and consumer demand for vehicles capable of operating in different environments.”

With such tailwinds, the segment could see the arrival of more players and new models. Getting the design right could be key to standing out in an increasingly attractive segment.

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