With 100 years of production and the auto industry’s oldest continually used nameplate, the archetypal hero vehicle for General Motors’ biggest brand is a Chevrolet truck, and it’s celebrating a century on the market.
Chevrolet unveiled its new 2019 Silverado pickup in Texas on Saturday and the brand’s talk is all about steel — whether it’s the truck’s steely-eyed front-end appearance or the metal that lines its bed.
Silverado is General Motors’ best-selling model and routinely the second best-selling vehicle in the United States. It’s also a fierce competitor for Ford’s signature vehicle, the F-150 pickup, the No. 1 seller.
But automakers are under pressure to boost gas mileage, which can lead to finding ways to lighten vehicles without sacrificing capability. Ford’s answer with the latest generation of the F-150 pickup was to switch to a body made of aluminum, saving up to 700 pounds a vehicle.
But Chevy used Ford’s switch to attack the F-150 in comparison ads, saying heavy, sharp objects would put holes through the aluminum truck bed while only denting the Silverado. Now, in again embracing steel for the new truck, that strategy is not likely to change with the new 2019 Silverado.
Chevy touts that the ’19 Silverado’s use of “a higher-grade (steel) alloy is used in the roll-formed, high-strength-steel bed floor, contributing to a bed that is more functional and lighter weight.”
Doubling down on the Silverado’s difference – which should give it a cost advantage versus the F-150 – there’s not a single reference to aluminum in the material Chevrolet provided, despite the fact that the new pickup is sure to use some of the light, strong material.
Technical details are scant at this point, but expect Chevy to follow upon that poke at the F-150 with more targeted shots when the ’19 Silverado debuts at the North American International Auto Show next month in Detroit.
The Silverado’s ability to meet or beat the F-150’s fuel economy, towing capacity and features without expensive aluminum will be vital to GM’s competitiveness in the highly profitable full-size pickup market.
Looks matter, too. The new Silverado was given a pair of narrow, high-mounted headlights that give it a more steely, squinty expression. For a market that includes lots of cowboys and contractors, it could be a winner.
The grille is big and bold, with a double black crossbar and smaller horizontal chrome bars. LED running lights reach down to indicators new the bottom of the grille.
The sides feature a sharp crease above the front wheel wells. It dips down along the front door, while another line runs from the top of the taillights forward to the middle of the front door. The rear bumper features inset steps for access to the bed and has “Chevrolet” stamped across it. Twin chrome tailpipes are inset in to the black rear bumper of the Z71 crew cab model featured in advance photos.
GM says it surveyed more than 7,000 Chevy truck owners about features for the new model, which is expected to go on sale in the second half of 2018.
As if the battle for pickup primacy wasn’t intense enough, an all-new version of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 pickup will also debut at the same Detroit auto show. Watch for Ram to pull out all the stops to challenge Chevy and Ford’s claims for fuel economy, towing capacity and more.
“2019 is going to be the year of the pickup battle,” Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs said. “These trucks are incredibly important. Selling them now will pay for investments in future technologies like autonomous and electric vehicles.”
Pickup sales have risen steadily since the Great Recession and are expected to hold at around 13% of the total new-vehicle market for the next several years, though Krebs points out that the oft-promised national infrastructure program would push them even higher. The pickup segment is one of the largest and most profitable in the auto industry.
“Each brand has incredibly loyal customers,” IHS Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “This is about bragging rights for their owners.”
GM’s upscale GMC brand will launch an all-new version of its Sierra pickup that will share most of the Silverado’s technology next year.
Chevy unveiled the 2019 Silverado at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth at an event to celebrate the centennial of its first truck.
“Our owners’ passion for Chevrolet trucks is truly humbling,” said Alan Batey president of GM North America, and global head of Chevrolet.
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