The Denali trim level is GMC’s cash cow, sitting at the top of the lineup. GM’s truck and SUV brand has two decades of success under its name with the Denali name, even so ubiquitous that many GMC owners, when asked what they drive, will say “a Denali” to the brand. location of the model name.
Executives thought they could get even more good stuff if they paired the Denali’s premium parts with an off-road sub-brand: thus, the AT4 was born. In 2018, GMC launched the AT4 with the 2019 Sierra, which has adapted perfectly to the explosion of overlanding and off-roading the market has seen in recent years. And the success of the AT4 has been a welcome revelation, even for the brand that launched it.
“The success of the AT4 has taken us by surprise in recent years,” said Stu Pierce, senior manager of GMC. “There is certainly a great attachment to the Denali brand; it’s right in this sweet spot. For the Sierra, the AT4 models started out about ten percent of the mix, and now it takes the lead over Denali for light duty. Our heavy truck buyers are looking to Denali.
So far, GMC finds that 60% of AT4 buyers are new to GMC, and there isn’t a lot of cross-buying between that and Denali models, Pierce says. Buyers tend to look to the adventurous young people. The Canyon, GMC’s popular mid-size pickup, debuted in 2020 and the AT4 is already the bulkier version. It is also available on the Yukon, Acadia and Terrain.
“Everyone has a version of an all-terrain truck,” says Pierce. “We are looking for the combination of premium and off-road.”
Pierce gave me some examples of some of the differences between the Denali and the AT4:
- On the Sierra AT4, the ride height is increased by two inches and it has a suspension ready for off-road; the Denali model has an adaptive ride version.
- AT4 trims have greater approach and departure angles on all vehicles.
- The Yukon has four-corner air suspension available on Denali and the AT4, but if you choose 4L you can raise the vehicle 2 inches with the AT4.
- The GMC Sierra Denali has 22-inch wheels and all-season tires, and the AT4 has 18-inch wheels and muddy terrain tires.
- A Yukon AT4 has 20-inch wheels and all-terrain tires versus 22-inch wheels and all-season tires on a Denali.
- The Transparent Trailer feature is available on Denali and AT4.
Denali models include a standard 6.2-liter engine or the new Duramax Diesel. AT4 trim models for 2021 were powered by a standard 5.3-liter with the diesel version optional for the Sierra, and for 2022 GMC added the 6.2-liter to the mix for the AT4 trims, which was once a exclusive part of the Denali formula.
Right now, well over half of Yukon’s sales are Denalis: between 60 and 65 percent, says Pierce.
“Together, I think the Denali and AT4 models will soon represent more than three-quarters of our sales,” he says. “Once we are able to build an inventory, we think the AT4 will grow even more. People like to have the high end hardware. “
It seems prescient for GMC to continue promoting the AT4 as the market evolves, especially now. Once the chip shortage is sorted out, it will be interesting to see how the mix fits and with an all-electric truck in the works, GMC is doing its best to stay ahead of its competition.
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