February 13th, 2019
Flint, Michigan, was cold on Tuesday, gray with a winter sleet warning in the forecast. It was a perfect day to launch Chevrolet’s all-new 2020 Silverado Heavy Duty truck in the face of the just-launched Ford product and almost-here RAM.
Flint is where the truck will be built in a brand new plant that’s part of the 159 acre, 3.3 million square foot Flint Assembly plant. In an eerily quiet staging area, first plant manager Michael Perez talked about the 3,000-strong work force and the plant’s longevity, and the recent 1.5 billion dollar investment. Flint is GM’s longest continuously operating assembly plant, having produced more than 13-million vehicles since opening in 1947. Interestingly, the first 300 production Corvettes came from Flint in 1953.
Then Silverado HD chief engineer Jaclyn McQuaid described its advanced trailer tow features, the fully boxed High Strength Steel frame, and its two new powertrains. She spoke about a tow rating minimum of 33,000 pounds for every dually, not just the 35,500 maximum for a specific option set. That maximum tow rating is up 52-percent!
Mark Reuss, president of GM described their truck strategy and last year’s 973,000 truck sales. He projected strong earnings for 2019, now that the three-truck strategy is in effect—Colorado, Silverado and Silverado HD, plus Medium Duty 4-5-6 series trucks. He also commented on, but gave no details on the 3.0-liter Duramax diesel engine for light-duty trucks. Damn!
Mark was followed by chief designer Rich Scheer, who outlined exterior and interior changes like the corner-step and bed step, same-height bed rails, integrated block heater outlet, and easy fitment to snow plows. “We knew if we could pull off something this dramatic, nobody would mistake our Heavy Duty for a Light Duty -- and that would be our competitive advantage.” Rich then went for a Trim Walk, from Work, to Custom, to LT and chrome, the LTZ with more chrome and LED headlights, and finally High Country with its body-colored bumpers and 20-inch wheels.
With the talking complete, these are the things that grabbed our attention: first, two new engines and two new transmissions. Each powertrain is based, somewhat, on existing products. We’d been waiting for the new gas engine in particular. Based on the 6.0-liter V-8 small block, its longer stroke ups displacement to 6.6-liters with a power output of 401 horsepower and 455 lb.-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm thanks to Direct Injection. It offers 18-percent greater tow capacity. We’ll have a complete photo essay after the Chicago Auto Show, which we’re currently attending.
The diesel, all 910 torques of it, is mated to an Allison® transmission boasting ten speeds; a very low first gear and several overdrive gears. The main benefit of having ten speeds is keeping diesel engine RPM in the best band for torque and for perfect no-brake downhilling.
Again, more after Chicago. Except for one note, because of the massive 12-inch ring gear and larger prop shaft and axles, Chevy (and of course GMC) promise every single foot-pound of torque can be applied in first gear. Even that lower first gear.
The Introduction & Reveal
When we stepped into our meeting room, several partly assembled trucks were in mid-test form. Using coordinate measuring machines that index to established hard points, precise measurement of how individual parts fit, and how the whole assembly conforms to engineering standards is established.
This hanger-sized area would be for temporary storage. On this Tuesday, every truck writer in the USA sat alongside engineers, executives and teammates.
Michael Perez, plant manager delivered a history lesson on the oldest of GM’s plants and the workforce represented by UAW Local 598 that will build GM’s Heavy Duty trucks in volume, starting in summer.
Mark Reuss, GM president, spoke about Chevrolet’s five-truck strategy, how General Motors sold more trucks than anyone last year, and how the company expects to continue improving its products. (Now, if only there were some extra funds for interiors…)
Jaclyn McQuaid is the chief engineer for Heavy Duty, and she produced two bare chassis to extol the boxed High Strength Steel-y goodness thereof. Most interesting is the claim that each Heavy Duty truck can apply 100-percent of its available torque in first gear without turning the driveshaft into scrap. She also debuted the new gas engine, which we had not expected.
The upgraded Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 mates to an Alison transmission, a segment exclusive, and the powertrain offers an optional, warranted, PTO, another exclusive.
Frames are available with built-in gooseneck cross-body reinforcements and bed holes from the factory, saving extra costs and possible fitment misfits. Another option is an Autotrac two-speed transfer case for 4X4 models. It’s fully electronically activated.
One sought-after upgrade for diesel trucks is easier access to DEF, and a way to monitor DEF quantities. The new Silverado HD encloses the DEF filler behind the fuel door and provides a DEF quantity monitor. (This is welcome, needed, but hardly novel.)
If you need a gooseneck setup, GM offers it from the factory. It includes a bed already perforated during production, so is fully coated on all surfaces for less rust potential.
Closer view of the diesel powertrain, with the PTO option.
GM’s new small-block 6.6-liter V-8. The tall intake manifold is made from Nylon 6-6, and we’ll provide more details soon.
Even the gas engine, which does run on 87 Octane fuel, offers a factory PTO.
One of the novel options is smart trailer integration, which is designed to work with ASA Electronics iN∙Command® control system. This offers control over trailer features like heat and air conditioning. You control it from the dash, or your myChevrolet mobile app.
We mentioned the designed-in easier fitment for snowplows. No cutting required.
This Cougar trailer is the one monitored in our infotainment center photos.
There’s nothing like proving your truck can pull a large trailer. However, note the new towing mirrors. They slide in-out to provide coverage for trailers that don’t have the transparent trailer view option.
Some venues have greeters. We had a new Silverado to welcome us.
The Flint Plant Tour
Largely robotic, the plant uses JIT or Just In Time parts that arrive in reusable fixtures.
We weren’t told how many robots there are, but 3,000 people make the trucks. Everything possible is done to prevent scratches and dents.
While it would seem that once a part is designed and the stamping die constructed, the job is over. Not so. Constant measurement is part of the process.
Using multiple part profiles, this video-enabled dimensional test device looks at minute, hair-thin deviations from specification. Once is an aberration, but several would require intervention in production. At start-up, every part is tested. Thereafter, a statistical sample will be used.
Remember when we said beds were produced for fifth-wheel or gooseneck applications? These are raw parts in several bed lengths, prior to welding into complete beds.
Parts arrive from GM’s attached metal stamping plant on AGVs, Automated Guided Vehicles. Laser-guided (look at the up-looking towers), they flow throughout the plant on designated paths.
Smaller parts are tugged throughout the plant by AGV tugs. They operate in strict lanes.
Partly assembled bodies and beds head towards the paint shop to be immersed in protective chemistry, prior to the paint shop’s base and clear coat application. Wondering about the upside-down tailgate? It’s so the anti-corrosion primary coating can drain out through what will be bed-top mounting holes.
Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com
Here are the 2020 Silverado HD specifications provided today:
*All towing capabilities measured using SAE J2807 metrics.
The end of December, I noticed a small amount of oil on the garage floor under the front of rear differential of my 2WD, 2019 High Country. It appeared to be a pinion seal leak. The Dealership concurred and ordered a new front yoke and pinion seal. Today, the Dealership called and informed me that GM did not have the parts so they sent a Complete new rear Differential as a replacement!! Now they need my truck for a Full day to swap rear ends. Appears to be an EXPENSIVE way to replace a $10 part, but GM must know Best!?
By Sue Campbell
Hello. I bought a 2018 Chevy Silverado Duramax 2500HD High Country. We recently took it on a long trip with the travel trailer, and since I had never owned a diesel before, I had no idea what DEF was. We were on the freeway, about a 100 miles from a gas station. I checked my gauge in the truck and the DEF fluid was "ok" and then 30 miles down the road it was not ok. I was wondering if there was a way to check the fluid, either by the computer in the truck or is there a dip stick that I can purchase after market? Thanks for the help.
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