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Truck sales picked up by Scott Brown's ho-hum GMC

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 22, 2010 07:00 AM

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(All photos: AP)

Senator-elect Scott Brown's unprecedented victory Tuesday in the Massachusetts special election came, in part, from an unassuming GMC pickup truck. His 2005 Canyon crew cab, which Brown drove to campaign events and promised he'd take to Washington, has also been a surprising win for the state's truck dealers, according to a report in today's Globe.

“We’ve gotten eight to 12 phone calls from people asking, ‘Do you sell trucks like that?’ ’’ said Al Cerrone, owner of an Attleboro GMC dealership that sells new and used trucks. “It prompted inquiries, and when you’ve got inquiries, you’ve always got sales.’’

The Norwood GMC dealer that sold Brown his pickup -- which now has more than 200,000 miles -- is cashing in on the frenzy, and plans to put an identical used Canyon in the showroom adorned with Brown signage.

“If you look at the commercials, you can see our name on the back of his truck,’’ general manager Tom O’Neil said.

Brown's favorite one-liner ("I'm Scott Brown, I'm from Wrentham, and I drive a truck") was perhaps the most simple and direct way he could have established an "average guy" persona. When President Obama suggested that Brown wasn't all he claimed to be and told voters to "look under the hood," Brown fired back, "When he criticized my truck, that’s where I draw the line."

Brown-Canyon-small.jpgRevelers at Brown's election party at Boston's Park Plaza hotel Tuesday night chanted "Gas up the truck!", another campaign phrase that symbolized Brown's assault on the unpopular health care bill. When opponent and attorney general Martha Coakley (who drives a Nissan Xterra) captured the Democratic primary on Dec. 8, she assumed the long-shot Republican and his equally forgettable pickup weren't a threat.

The GMC Canyon, an underpowered, ho-hum truck that hasn't seen a serious upgrade since launching in 2004, certainly wasn't. Only recently has the Canyon offered an engine beyond the wheezy four- and five-cylinder choices, and much of the foreign competition has crept past it (although no entry-level pickup on the market can be called modern).

GMC itself survived a political crisis when General Motors chose it along with Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac as a "core brand" during bankruptcy negotiations. Yet everything GMC makes, from the Sierra pickup to the 8-passenger Suburban, are Chevrolets with different grilles and option packages, the uninspired "badge engineering" that caused the demise of Pontiac, Saturn, and Oldsmobile. Even GMC's marketing slogan "We are professional grade" should be seriously questioned. Does that mean everything else GM makes is unprofessional grade?

While the new Terrain looks much different on the outside than its cousin Chevrolet, GM hasn't paid much attention to refining GMC's image as a premium truck brand. As the Democrats say, it's "just more of the same." But as Brown found out, it may not always be.

Globe staff Megan Woolhouse contributed to this report.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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