2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ - front three-quarter view

General Motors has a couple of problems to deal with: a glut of pickups on dealer lots and the inability to claim best-in-class fuel economy for its usually strong-selling Chevrolet Silverado pickup. In light of the situation, GM's marketing message has transmuted into something else: "hey, at least they're cheap to own."

Recent Chevrolet TV commercials have been sending the message that the Silverado offers the lowest total cost of ownership for full-sized pickup trucks, citing a 2012 Vincentric study that ranked the cost of ownership for 2,400 US model configurations. Vincentric analyzes average transaction price, maintenance costs, depreciation and other factors.

The nationwide cost of ownership campaign was just started, GM North America President Mark Reuss said in an interview. "Inside of that is maintenance and real-world fuel economy," he said.

Real-world fuel economy is not the same as best-in-class fuel economy. GM has been watching its rivals boast about fuel economy achievements including the re-engineered 2013 Ram 1500 pickup getting best-in-class 25 mpg on the highway. Ford has been singing accolades about its F-150 offering both high towing capability and low fuel efficiency powered by the truck's EcoBoost V-6 engine.

For the automakers, making fuel economy improvements to trucks and large sedans plays a significant role in meeting federal mpg standards, especially if they're selling a lot of them. While upgrading high-mileage car like the Toyota Prius to 60 mpg from 50 won't matter too much in a driver's annual fuel bill, increasing a pickup truck with mileage in the low 20s by two or three mpgs per year can make a real difference.