The Wall Street Journal today announced that GM is planning on producing aluminum-bodied pickups for the next generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, due for 2018. This comes on the heels of Ford moving the 2015 F150 to an all-aluminum body, with around 97% of the body structure being aluminum (Including the load floor of the bed), which Ford claims has saved 700 pounds off the curbweight of the F150. GM plans to weld panels together as opposed to Ford’s riveted and bonded aluminum panels, to seek further weight savings.
General Motors has secured supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. and Novelis Inc. for their next-generation pickups. Alcoa will also supply aluminum for Ford’s upcoming ’15 F150.
GM’s global product development chief, Mark Reuss, hinted at considering aluminum-bodied pickups last month:
“We need to see how much aluminum is in it, not what they say is in it but what is actually in it,” Mr. Reuss said the night before Ford introduced its truck. “We are going to look at what they advertise as the weight savings from it and then we are going to go back and do some math… We can play this game real easily.”
Sources familiar with GM’s plans tell the WSJ that rather than using riveting and bonding like Ford, GM has developed a process that uses multi-ringed electrodes to weld the aluminum panels, eliminating a considerable amount of rivets from the production process, reducing weight and assembly time. It takes much less time for a machine to weld panels (be it spot or bead welds) than riveting panels together. This process is already used in smaller aluminum panels, like the aluminum hood of the Cadillac CTS-V, the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the last-generation hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.
The alleged move to aluminum for GM represents a major shift in the pickup segment: for the first time in memory, fuel economy is the prime focus, rather than payload, towing or power. For GM, the move to aluminum can be construed as a tacit admission that their evolutionary approach to their new full-sizers is not adequate. Sales of the new trucks have been disappointing, with inventories approaching 151 days.