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Thom Cannell

Contributor, GM-Trucks.com

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

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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.

 

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This hanger-sized area would be for temporary storage. On this Tuesday, every truck writer in the USA sat alongside engineers, executives and teammates.

 

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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.

 

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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…)

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.)

 

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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.

 

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Closer view of the diesel powertrain, with the PTO option.

 

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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.

 

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Even the gas engine, which does run on 87 Octane fuel, offers a factory PTO.

 

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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.


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We mentioned the designed-in easier fitment for snowplows. No cutting required.

 

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This Cougar trailer is the one monitored in our infotainment center photos. 

 

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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.

 

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Some venues have greeters. We had a new Silverado to welcome us.

 

The Flint Plant Tour
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Largely robotic, the plant uses JIT or Just In Time parts that arrive in reusable fixtures.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Smaller parts are tugged throughout the plant by AGV tugs. They operate in strict lanes.

 

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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.

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It my look funny but it's going to be a beast for sure.

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Great article.  When can I order it, and pick mine up? 

 

Will GM make the 2019 k2 HD for a period of concurrent offer with 2020s?

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33,000lbs min??? Jeez

 

Anyway if they indeed beefed up the guts that makes me excited.  Seems the strategy is to refine what exists and works vs go completely crazy with aluminum everything or some bizarre setup.

 

is any of this that different from RAM or Fords new offerings?

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20 minutes ago, dmax_ty said:

Coils for the gasser HD front end? 

Good eye. I didn't catch that the first time around. I'm surprised there's been no mention of that. Also looks to be rack and pinion steering on that one as well. I wonder if it's all strictly a gasser thing, or all 2500s.

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So upon further investigation it appears they must of stuffed it in a 1500 chassis for this reveal. 

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Damn. I was thinking we were on to something for bit. 

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I'm sorry but ugly assed front end.  I wonder how much taller it is than my already too tall 2016 2500?  

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On 2019-02-15 at 9:36 AM, dmax_ty said:

Coils for the gasser HD front end? 

I wonder if they are retiring the torsion bars on the diesels too?

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48 minutes ago, WilliamBos said:

I wonder if they are retiring the torsion bars on the diesels too?

They had it in what looked like a half ton truck frame.  

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I just looked again - the diesel frame still uses torsion bars, the gasser coil overs.

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1 hour ago, WilliamBos said:

I just looked again - the diesel frame still uses torsion bars, the gasser coil overs.

You are correct but if you look at my photo above, it’s in a 1500 chassis, not the 2500hd which is why there are no torsion bars. 

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51 minutes ago, DTB said:

You are correct but if you look at my photo above, it’s in a 1500 chassis, not the 2500hd which is why there are no torsion bars. 

So its going to be offered in the 1500’s too?  No thanks - will wait to see the new 8L+ engine thats coming.

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I’m confused as to why they planted it in a 1500 chassis for the unveiling. Add to the fact they couldn’t find 4 matching tires haha. 

 

I wonder if they beefed the steering components as well? 

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