By on December 7, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Silverado Z71

General Motors, the company that ran a campaign criticizing Ford for moving away from steel on its F-Series, is expected to implement carbon fiber in the beds of large pickup trucks within two years. Hopefully, the wait gives consumers time to forget some rather negative ads that bemoaned the use of aluminum for its high repair costs and chance of deformation in an impact.

Carbon fiber is ridiculously strong and should hold up in any side-by-side impact test against aluminum. That is, until you start considering price. Carbon fiber costs substantially more to manufacture, form, and fix than either steel or aluminum. That’s probably why GM plans to limit its usage to only highest trim levels, at least until it can figure out a way to keep production costs down. 

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, General Motors doesn’t want to keep the exotic weave limited to ultra-expensive models indefinitely. It’s considering the widespread implementation of carbon fiber, as the lightweight material would improve fuel economy by cutting down on weight. But selling it to consumers might be difficult. We know that truck buyers are willing to spend more than ever on a pickup but we don’t know if they’ll option for a bed that isn’t steel without it being roped into an appetizing premium package. They certainly didn’t with GM’s plastic composite beds in the early 2000s.

Carbon fiber isn’t the only lightweight material that appears destined for the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, either. The report indicated that we might soon see more aluminum used in both vehicles’ construction — again, to save weight.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the engineers in this case. You can imagine one of them mentioning the need to lighten General Motors’ fleet before someone said, “Well, we can’t use too much aluminum. Those advertising people made that an impossibility for us. What about carbon fiber?”

Selective availability or not, simply using the material will give GM some serious bragging rights. That’s important in the highly competitive truck segment, where every added feature or extra pound of payload capacity can make a difference.

[Image: General Motors]

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36 Comments on “General Motors Eyes Carbon Fiber Beds for Future Pickups...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    As long as they keep pushrods and natural aspiration I don’t care what the truck is made out of.

    • 0 avatar
      tsoden

      What about ICE???

      http://1j5jsm2mvi7w2f7x4m23n116.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/alh-canadian-tire-ice-truck.jpg

      This was apparently a real truck… the gimmick was meant to test MotoMaster batteries or something….

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      It’ll be interesting to see how GM fairs with its OHV platform going forward. It seems they are starting hit the limit with 2v layout.

      GM did develop a 3v pushrod setup some time ago bit concluded at the time the benefits weren’t worth the cost.

      I’d wager if the camless engine gains more traction they will probably leapfrog past they more typical OHC.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Seriously? What’s wrong with OHC?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with OHC (Ive commented a lot on TTAC about liking the Ford 6.2L), I just prefer the GM pushrod design. I’m much more familiar with it and it’s more compact compared to a OHC V8. I was working on a Toyota 4.7L recently and the thing is about the size of a Buick 455.

        Plus GM prior ventures into OHC V- configuration engines usually didn’t go well.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Seeing that carbon fiber is going to start being used in ONLY the highest trim levels – that tells you how ridiculous the profit margins are on those vehicles.

    BRING BACK PRO-TEC BEDS!

    https://tinyurl.com/y9qydlna

    (Baruth’s screed about Pro-Tec beds – which FYI is the first thing that comes up in a Google search for “GM Pro-Tec”.)

  • avatar
    crtfour

    Whew that face….put the Dodge Ram picture back up.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    A layering of titanium and gold-dust infused carbon fiber is the best solution. Aluminum is for common people and steel is for folks who live in dumpsters.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Back to the future: How about wood beds – biodegradable, natural, easy to repair, strong.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I wonder how well a laminated configuration would do.

    Maybe carbon fiber or aluminum for structure between two layers of urethane for durability.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Well, we can’t use too much aluminum. Those advertising people made that an impossibility for us. What about carbon fiber?”

    That’s exactly what happened. Now the buyers and suppliers will be forced to make it affordable, and insurance repair rates will go up.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m waiting for the Ford ad in which they drop a toolbox into a GM carbon-fiber bed at -40C/F outside.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I laughed at those ads…thinking that anyone who was careless enough to drop a toolbox or a load of cinder blocks into a truck bed probably would just leave the damage that way…come back three years from now and tell me what the damaged aluminum bed looks like after three road-salted northeastern winters vs what the steel bed looks like.

    The aluminum bed will look pretty much like it did when the damage occurred, and the steel bed will look like wet graham crackers.

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    In order to keep costs down, GM will have the carbon fiber truck beds manufactured in China.
    In order to keep costs down, China will manufacture the truck beds from carbon fiber synthesized from the chimney output solids of Shanghai coal-fired power plants.

  • avatar
    jmo

    When developing the 787 the airlines were very concerned about “gate rash” the wear and tear around the cargo, catering and passenger doors. Boeing sent them a carbon fiber frame panel to test. They spend weeks wailing on it with everything including sledge hammers – it didn’t even dent.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The cab is where I want to see weight savings and rust protection, as beds are easily replaced. Not to mention pickups are too light empty (competing with a heavy front), as it is.

    GM needs to bite the bullet, eat crow and go all aluminum FFS.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      That was my thought too. A lighter bed increases load capacity but its already the lightest part of the vehicle. So the best place for carbon fiber would be cab… places like the roof, hood and fenders.

  • avatar
    cpurser

    Someone doesn’t know anything about carbon fiber. If the bed is truly made of carbon fiber composites, CF will delaminate / break with very little impact force, especially from a sharp object. It is probably the worst choice possible. But, if it’s fiber reinforced plastic (like Toyota beds), that’s a different animal. Pelican cases are made of this stuff and they are almost indestructible.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      You need to explain the difference as it seems the terms CFRP or carbon fiber can be used interchangeably. Or perhaps you’re referring to a technical difference that’s beyond the scope of a press release description?

      • 0 avatar
        cpurser

        I guess the article is confusing. CF, as used in supercars and F1 “tubs” is carbon fiber fabric (typically “prepreg” with resin) laid into a form, and then it is cured in an oven. It is very expensive to manufacture, which the article mentions. This type of CF is not impact tolerant.

        CFRP is much cheaper to produce, and is mostly plastic with short fibers embedded.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’d be really happy with an LSx in an F-150. Pity.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Why not just composite (plastic)? That’s what my Tacoma uses. It’s strong and light, and a replacement bed (the big plastic piece) only runs about $1200 for the 6-foot version (I priced it one time, just for kicks). Of course for a full-size 8-foot it would be more, but I’ll bet a lot cheaper than carbon fiber.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      GM had the technology – see my “Pro-Tec” reference above. Totally botched it from a marketing standpoint. Didn’t have an effin’ clue how to sell it.

      Growing up on 60 miles or so from the Fort Wane, IN assembly plant and surrounded by guys who were getting friends and family pricing I only saw a small handful of beds with the little Pro-Tec logo on them.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Carbon fiber beds – Ford may have a field day with this. After all, tit-for-tat regarding GM’s ads featuring dumping rocks and showing a hole torn in Ford’s aluminum bed – if that actually happened.

    Will we see a shattered hole in GM’s truck beds? Time will tell. Perhaps Ford will find a couple of truckloads of Rommel’s leftover hedgehogs that didn’t make it to the Normandy beaches and will make a comparison after dumping them into a Ford vs. GM truck bed.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      The leader never mentions the competition in its ads – marketing 101. Also, there’s no reason for GM not to use aluminum beds – marketing campaigns change all the time. At worst, all they have to do is create a new name “nuclear grade aluminum” or some other nonsense.

  • avatar
    carguy

    If a $70K vanity truck makes sense to you, then I guess so does a carbon fiber bed.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      +1.

      If what they are talking about, and I’m assuming it is, is polyurea (LineX) sufficiently fiber reinforced to allow for doing away with the underlying metal pan, I could see the point. But not if it has anything in common with the carbon fiber trim parts of current upmarket cars.

      I do think an offroad/woods truck could benefit from a literal Titanium edition, however… No paint to pinstripe. More intrinsically bling that your neighbor’s so-called-Platinum Raptor could ever hope to be.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Amorphous carbon fibre/polycarbonate composites are currently used in some DSLR cameras (Nikon D5600, D7500, D750, Canon SL1). It’s not a weave, more like a fibre putty that is molded and cured into place; this makes it suited to mass production than laying down layers of the woven stuff and curring in an oven like a F-1 car. Previously the camera industry used fibreglass/polycarbonte composites; the CFRP versions are a bit lighter, and apparently more thermo-stable. This means that the parts are smaller, and the mounting points can be made more precisely. my experience is that when the stuff does break, it tends to split and crack rather than shatter, similar to wood. If there is going to be more in-roads of CFRP on consumer cars, it will be this stuff, not as strong as the woven constructions, but cheaper and faster to make.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I can’t wait until this one-upsmanship finally delivers stealth trucks to the market. What could be better than knowing the truck you’ll never fly, has no radar signature on Russian SAM sites?

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    But, will “CARBON FIBER!!!” be stamped all over the truck? We wouldn’t want the owners, who paid big bucks, to have their bed mistaken for a drop in or spray on liner.
    Alternatively, since GM has spent so much time bashing aluminum beds, they could patent an aluminum alloy. Then rebadge it as Duratanium®.

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