All three of America’s top pickup truck manufacturers launched a new truck at the Detroit Auto show this month. Some clear trends have emerged.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the largest and most important auto show of the year for pickup truck makers. This year, Chevrolet launched an all-new Silverado, Ram introduced a new 1500 pickup, and Ford a new midsized Ranger pickup, along with an important new engine for its F-150.
Ford’s new diesel engine offering for the F-150 was announced just before the show started and revealed the first clear trend. Automakers want to milk diesel’s miles per gallon of fuel advantage for all it is worth to make the most of Corporate Average Fuel Economy. That is just fine with truck buyers, who like diesel for an entirely different reason, torque. Diesel engines are the preferred engines for towing, and Ford is following Ram’s lead by offering a new V6 diesel in its F-150. Chevy’s announcement was a few days later, but Chevy too says that it will have a new 3.0-liter diesel engine in its Silverado for fans soon. All three say that their diesels will have “Best in class” specifications. Two are mistaken.
High Strength Steel, Lightweighting, & Mixed Materials
Chevy announced its Silverado is now 450 pounds lighter. More significant was Chevrolet’s announcement that it would stick to steel as its cargo area material. All automakers use aluminum throughout all vehicles now to save weight. However, on exteriors, it is used mainly for hoods and trunks. Ford went farther with its F-150 in its last new generation using aluminum even in the cargo bed. Chevy has been hammering that point with advertisements claiming steel is tougher. Interestingly, Mark Reuss made a comment including a hammer, saying “I don’t know how much work you would get done with an aluminum hammer.” High strength steel is now all the rage.
Every automaker is promoting its use. Even Ford. When Ford launched its new Ranger, the company’s press release mentioned steel five times, including saying the truck had a “rugged high-strength steel frame backbone” in the opening paragraph. Ford never mentioned aluminum at all. By our count, the new Ram truck’s press materials mentioned steel and aluminum at seven times each. The Ram is now 225 pounds lighter.
Mine Is Bigger Than Yours
The new Silverado is bigger in key ways. For example, Mark Reuss, GM’s Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, pointed out that the seat height would be higher in the new 2019 Silverado. In addition, headroom increases. Bigger is better is the theme and Silverado owners will ride higher. Chevy also worked hard to make the most of its cargo area. Chevy says, “The 2019 Silverado offers the most cargo volume in every bed length, with the short-box offering 63 cubic feet of volume — up to 20 percent more than a competitor’s short-box.”
Ram’s launch also had a “size matters” theme. Ram says that its truck is longer and wider, its frame is “the longest”, and that its wheelbase and cab increases in length by four inches. Ram’s cargo area is also size maximized. Ram says that it has nearly “100 percent more storage capacity versus closest competitor at 151.1 liters.” The center console area is also bigger “with 12 different storage configurations offers never-before-seen customization for the most active interior real estate.” Who knew real estate even had an activity level?
Chevy has long had an edge in connectivity with its On Start telematics system and leadership in WiFi connectivity. However, this year, Ram stole the show with a massive 12″ screen that occupies much of its huge center dash area. Perhaps we should have included this in the Mine Is Bigger Than Yours category? In any case, trucks aren’t just getting bigger, they are getting smarter.