By on January 9, 2018

2019 Silverado 4500HD, Image: GM

An ill wind blew through Detroit late last decade, prompting all domestic automakers to shed excess weight in order to keep their heads above water. In some cases, automakers shaved off long-running brands like an unwanted hair. Models disappeared, while some prestige nameplates snapped up years earlier went out to the yard sale plastered in discount stickers.

A less flashy side of the recession-era cost-cutting involved the elimination of certain automotive niches. One, General Motors’ medium-duty truck line, failed to find a buyer before bankruptcy tipped GM’s hand. The unit didn’t make it out of the recession alive.

Well, now it’s back. GM has announced the Chevrolet Silverado line will no longer stop at the 3500HD model, and that our first full glimpse of the new medium-duty truck line will come in just two months.

The debut of the Silverado 4500HD and 5500HD chassis cabs will take place at this year’s Work Truck Show, held in Indianapolis in early March. The Class 4 and 5 trucks will arrive in a variety of configurations, all powered by Duramax diesel engines and Allison transmissions.

Regular and crew cab, two- and four-wheel drive, and a selection of GVWRs and wheelbases await potential buyers. “The Silverado 4500HD/5500HD trucks are the flagship of our full-line commercial truck portfolio and we’ve designed them to be among the best in the industry in maneuverability, serviceability, visibility, quietness and comfort, diesel fuel economy and more,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, General Motors Fleet.

GM claims the trucks aren’t based on existing trucks; rather, they’re a ground-up creation. Frequent partner Navistar International helped in the development. Included in the trucks’ content list is an “expanding suite” of connectivity options like OnStar and 4G LTE Wi-F, plus telematics for fleet monitoring purposes.

Exact specifications will have to wait until the March show, and production is scheduled to commence in Ohio late this year. One wonders if GM will stage a repeat of its Texas helicopter stunt with the largest of the Silverados.

[Image: General Motors]

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55 Comments on “After a Decade’s Absence, the Silverado’s Going Big Again...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    There’s good money to be made on these, and the advantage for selling to small businesses is that there are so many easy to access dealers compared the “big” truck brands.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Just so long as it isn’t saddled with a rebranded Navistar engine, they should do just fine. I’ve seen plenty of Ford’s redesigned F-650/750 since they came out.

    I wonder if they’ll be built in the former Blue Diamond plant in Mexico?

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Chevy and International/Navistar have been working together at the Springfield, Ohio, assembly plant for awhile. This is a large under-utilized assembly plant

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      The other question in my mind is when they say “powered by Duramax diesel engines and Allison transmissions.” do they mean the Duramax V8 or are they going back to Isuzu for inline 6 engines? Or will it be like last time and a mix of the two?

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I didn’t know the I-6 was marketed as a Duramax. No, I’m not being sarcastic, not in the least.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the straight 6 makes a comeback. There are a lot of people who think that is the correct configuration for a MD diesel engine, though usually that is class 6 and above, and people seem a little less picky about the Class 4-5 trucks as Ford owns that market with gas and diesel V8s while the Ram and its 6 cyl diesel are bit players.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      What made Ford jump back into the medium duty truck business? They built medium duties for a long time, then sold that business off in 1997 to Freightliner, who rebranded them as Sterlings.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @dukeisduke – Ford never fully left the MDT truck business. They bailed on the heavy truck market.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No Ford never stopped building MD trucks nor did they sell that business to Daimler trucks. Ford sold their L-series to them and part of that agreement included a 10 yr no compete clause for HD, Class 8 and above, trucks and Tractors of any class. Ford continued to crank out the Class 4-5 trucks from their own plants. Ford did enter into the Blue Diamond Joint venture with International to produce the Class 6-7 trucks with a chassis that was shared with the International Durastar.

        Since the no compete agreement has expired Ford introduced the F750SD which is really a class 8 truck and reintroduced factory built tractor versions in 650 750 and 750SD versions.

  • avatar

    Take my money!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I saw another announcement that the new Silverado will be at NAIAS but the new Sierra will not – first time since 1998 at the trucks aren’t debuting at the same time. GM says this is an effort to put distance between Silverado and Sierra and have GMC move beyond “professional grade”.

    This can only end well.

    GM – specializing in effin’ up one car funerals.

  • avatar
    redapple

    John Taurus.

    What s wrong with a Navistar engine? Are you referring to the Powerstroke 6.0 disaster? everybody was blaming everybody else on that one. Never knew who was to blame.

    Their 7.3 and DT 466 ARE BULLET PROOF.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This is a good move strategically as a lot of the buyers/drivers of 4500 and up trucks also drive a 1/2 or 3/4 ton for personal use. Might as well get them comfortable again with the GM interior packaging.

    Plus, the market for these trucks is enormous with the essentially unlimited configurations that exist.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    This would make hauling the occasional 2×4 from home depot that much easier. Sign me up!

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    So the last time ford/chevy tried in the early/mid 2000s only old people and a few trust fund kids bought them. Good luck again!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Eh I see more F450s on the road that I care to admit, but then I live in an area where there are frequent large recreational 5th wheels and “Shipping Wars” contestants passing through due to I-40 running right through the county.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The majority of sales were to businesses and municipalities. And, Ford hasn’t stopped building medium duty trucks, have you driven by a Uhaul lot lately? I can bet pretty safely that there will be at least one new style Ford medium duty there.

      These vehicles aren’t designed nor marketed towards individual owners, and the very few that buy them are just icing on the cake. These are commercial truck entries, they’re not designed to be seen in driveways…unless they’re there delivering something lol.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        I swear, each and every tow truck in my town is invariably some variety of a Ford medium duty truck.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          I was going to say the same thing regarding tow trucks. GM permitted Ford and to a smaller extent Ram to own the light duty tow truck market, which was almost as dumb as the ‘So the last time ford/chevy tried in the early/mid 2000s only old people and a few trust fund kids bought them. Good luck again!’ comment.

          Trust funders buy 1 ton rigs. People who actually work for a living hauling really heavy stuff like cars, trees, 30′ boxes, cherry picker/booms need a 5500 GVW.

          This is good profitable business for GM, as it is for Ford. The best part is these trucks get used and abused by multiple users in some cases daily and their shelf life is not really all that long. A tow truck can see 60k a year easily, and all of the utility trucks see a lot of hours idling.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Ford has been in the class 4-7 market for many decades and moves a lot of metal.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @johnhowington – really?

      There is a small demographic that buys medium duty trucks and turns them in oversized pickups.

      450-550/4500-5500 trucks are meant to be used as the name implies – medium duty work. They are perfect for flat decks for home construction site supply delivery or with service bodies as mobile repair shops for heavy equipment repair.
      These trucks are very common in my part of northern BC. 350/3500’s and HD pickups are often too small for heavy industry as parts are heavy/bulky and/or can’t carry enough tools/supplies into remote areas without being overloaded.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Availability of gasoline engines is one of the major reasons Ford is growing market share in medium duty trucks. I wonder if GM will offer gasoline engine options? Diesel is not the automatic advantage people assume it to be. Modern gasoline engines are getting ever better fuel economy while diesels fuel economy is getting worse as they add band aids to improve emissions control. Long term maintenance costs of diesel engines are also getting higher all the time.

    https://www.trucks.com/2016/12/23/ford-work-truck-gas-engine/

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’m guessing L86 6.2 gas V8 standard and then various diesels as an option. If they’re smart they’ll design the engine bay so that various semi and heavy duty truck diesels can be fitted.

    • 0 avatar
      1500cc

      @ John Horner

      That struck me as odd too, not everyone’s going to want to pay the premium that diesel requires. I suspect a lot of buyers would prefer the bullet-proof Vortec L96 6.0 if GM were to offer it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Unlikely that the 6.0/6.2 will be bullet proof in a MD application yeah they do pretty good on durability in LD applications but the MD world is much more taxing.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      You are correct. My little brother owns a tree company and he only used Ford 450 and above now and only in the gas configuration. He has come to the conclusion, the expensive way, that Diesel engines are too expensive to operate once they are out of warranty and he does not like to replace trucks on the timetable of the factory to keep them in warranty. The up-fit expense in some cases is as much as the truck, if it is a boom/bucket truck for example. He needs to get 8 to 10 years out of it.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    After owning a ’90 Kodiak low-pro, my father vowed never to own another “pickup-based medium duty truck”. The Kodiak’s Cat 3116 was a healthy engine, but the clutch was weak. The cab was crap and so were the brakes. We traded up to an FL60 Freightiner and never looked back.
    I wonder if this new GM truck will have the van cab that the last GM medium-duty’s had?
    My office window overlooks a landscaper’s facility. The last GM vehicle in their fleet was one of the GM medium-duty vans with a dump bed. They have since switched their substantial fleet to all blue ovals. Fleet buyers can be a very loyal bunch. Buying market share is oft the entry tactic of newcomers…especially when no dealer has a well-established commercial focus.

  • avatar

    Ford Trucks have left Chevrolet so far in the dust I’m not sure why GM even bothers to try. I live in the 4-Corners. Virtually every single oil and oil service company drives F-250’s. Along with every governmental agency in the area. And so it is in EVERY oil patch I’ve visited across the USA. Every mechanic within 500 miles of here has the tools and knowledge to work on them. Other than the magnificent Allison transmission, how does GM possibly hope to compete with what is the world-standard in commercial trucks. Have they really upped the reliability, and servicability of the Duramax — along with brakes, suspension, everything else? They could start by making the engine fully serviceable without having to remove the cab — Ford’s achilles heel. Other than that, I simply don’t see why GM even tries. They should simply sell their truck assembly lines to Ford and call it a day. Focus on ugly sedans and econoboxes they can sell to car rental companies. Maybe spin off an electric car company to truly compete with Tesla.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The previous GM 4500/5500 wasn’t a Silverado, but it was an abortion using GM Savana van cabs. GM couldn’t give those awkward things away as they were horribly built and plagued with electrical problems. Kodak/Top Kick as they were known.

    Ford has already paved the way and sold millions of 450/550 Super dutys (or so it seems) based on everyday F-series pickups, since GM has been d!cking around with their own nonsense. Commercial buyers just want useful and boring. Basing class 4/5s on proven pickups makes the most sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah the last of the Kodiak/Top Kick trucks were a weird tweener truck that spanned the class 4-6 market. The Van cab wasn’t a bad idea in the class 6 where a forward and high set cab is expected, but the market has come to expect its class 4-5 truck cabs to be positioned like they are on pickups.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    One the one hand I can see why GM would be interested in returning to the conventional Class 4-5 market. On the other hand the others who have tried to crack that market have been unsuccessful. Daimler did offer a Class 5 M2 but has since dropped it. International, who is doing a lot of the heavy lifting on this project also had attempted to enter Class 5 with its Terrastar line but it was quickly dropped.

    So the question is can they crack Ford’s lock on this market with this attempt. I do think they have the best chance yet if they match the pickup ergonomics like the Ford and Ram do. The other attempts at Class 5 that have failed shared the climb way up ergonomics of the Class 6-7 trucks. It was the positioning of the cab down low like a pickup that caused the success of the F-SuperDuty and the F450 and F550 that followed. Before that Class 4 essentially hadn’t existed in decades and the Class 5 with the high forward set cabs were mostly passed over for the Class 6 version of the same truck.

  • avatar
    No Nickname Required

    “Go big or Go home”

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Can you get extra large trucknutz for these things?

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