Detroit— General Motors Co. said Friday that it is ending production of the Chevrolet Avalanche after more than a decade because of sagging sales.
The vehicle, which debuted as a 2002 model, has offered buyers interior space of an SUV and cargo truck capability and spurred the growing popularity of crew cab, or four-door, pickups. Avalanche sales peaked in 2003 at 93,482, but by last year had fallen to about 20,000. Sales of the Avalanche were up 25.9 percent in March to 2,083 vs. 1,655 during March 2011.
The Avalanche, built in Silao, Mexico, is part of the company's full-size truck program. GM will introduce all-new versions of its full-size trucks next year.
"As we're transitioning to the next generation of that program, there just wasn't enough volume to justify doing another updated version of the Avalanche," said GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson.
The decision to ax the Avalanche leaves questions about the future of the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which also is built at Silao.
"Long term, I don't think we're ready to talk about that yet, but there's nothing that changes the current Cadillac Escalade EXT," said Cadillac spokesman Dave Caldwell.
AutoPacific Inc.'s Dave Sullivan believes the EXT likely will end production around the same time as the Avalanche, because it's based on the Avalanche and shares many of the same components.
"The EXT will also follow in the Avalanche's footsteps," said Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific.
The 2013 model Avalanche will begin production in June, and GM will build a full model year, Wilkinson said.
"More than 580,000 Avalanches have been sold since its introduction in 2001 and Avalanche has won major awards and recognitions throughout its run," said Mark Clawson, Avalanche marketing manager, in a statement.
"So it is only fitting that Avalanche retires on a high note."
GM will offer a special edition 2013 Black Diamond model for the Avalanche's final year. It will include a special badge, more features on the LS and LT models and lower pricing. Base prices have been cut by $2,500 for 2013, GM said. A two-wheel drive 2013 Avalanche LS will start at $35,980, plus a $995 dealer freight charge.
The 2013 Avalanche LS models will come with features including a rear camera, rear park assist, power adjustable pedals, fog lamps and remote start.
"The average Chevy Avalanche currently sells for $45,198, which is remarkably — and perhaps off-puttingly — high for a pickup truck," Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said in a statement. "Avalanche sales volumes plummeted during the 2008 recession and never recovered despite high levels of incentives on its hood."
The Avalanche, which has received Consumer Reports' top pickup honors, gave buyers seating for four to five adults and versatility to haul items in a truck bed. But when Chevy began offering a crew cab version of its Silverado in the mid 2000s, some Avalanche buyers may have shifted to Silverado.
"Crew cab pickups have grown significantly and that has really taken a dent into the Avalanche's future," Sullivan said.
Today, crew cabs account for about two-thirds of light-duty pickup sales.
Like the Avalanche, the specialty Escalade EXT is a low volume seller for GM. The Escalade EXT, which begins with a sticker price of $64,055 and is one of three Escalade body styles, began as a 2002 model.
It hit a high of 13,000 sales in its first year, but now represents about 10 percent of Escalade sales.