General Motors unveiled the next-generation Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.
A helicopter carried the 2019 Silverado through the sky and gently lowered it onto the race track’s infield. The reveal was a surprise move well before the truck’s expected debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.
GM is moving to defend its turf in the hotly competitive pickup market. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will show off its next generation Ram 1500 truck at the show next month. Ford Motor Co. also is expected to announce improvements to its market-leading F-150 pickup.
The 2019 Silverado boasts a striking design compared with the current model. Its familiar horizontal grille is modernized with projector headlamps and curved LED strips. The sheet metal is drawn taut across the hood and front fenders, and has aggressive swoops carved into the side. A dramatic shoulder line runs straight across the doors and bed to swooping taillights. “Chevrolet” is stamped wide across the rear tailgate.
“It’s strong, it’s modern, but it’s instantly recognizable as a Chevy truck,” said Alan Batey, president of General Motors’ North American operations.
The model shown in Texas is the 2019 Silverado LT Trailboss. The new trim comes with the Z71 off-road package and a two-inch suspension lift. It is one of eight trims that will be available across the 2019 Silverado lineup.
Mixed materials are prevalent throughout the new Silverado, Batey said. But the automaker did not offer many details about the truck’s construction.
The new Silverado features a higher-grade steel alloy in its bed floor, Batey said. The steel alloy indicates that GM is not following Ford, which uses aluminum to build truck beds.
According to GM, the Silverado’s high-grade material reduces the truck’s total weight. Ounce for ounce, the steel alloy is stronger than conventional steel.
GM will display the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado at the Detroit auto show, where the company is expected to reveal more information about the truck. The pickup will be available with expanded engine and transmission combinations, as well as more technology and convenience features. It is expected to offer improved fuel economy.
Silverado is the second best-selling vehicle in the U.S. this year. GM has sold 518,000 Silverados through the first 11 months of 2017, a dip of 0.5 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp.
Ford’s F-Series line of trucks are the biggest sellers. The automaker has sold more than 807,000 this year, a 10 percent gain over the same period a year earlier. Ram is third in both truck and overall automobile sales. The brand has sold almost 456,000 trucks this year, a 3 percent increase.
Automakers are pouring money into pickup truck development because it is among the fastest growing and most profitable segments in the industry.
Car companies earn a profit of $10,000 or more on the typical full-size pickup, according to industry analysts. They only make $1,500 to $2,000 for a passenger sedan.
That’s because the average transaction price for a truck is almost $40,000, according to market research firm J.D. Power. The average transaction price of a compact sedan is less than $19,000, and the average mid-size family car costs less than $22,000. Automobile manufacturers enjoy more favorable margins for pickup trucks because, despite the difference in cost to the consumer, pickup trucks do not cost twice as much to produce as a passenger car.
Saturday’s Silverado unveiling was held at the Chevy Truck Centennial Event, which celebrated 100 years of Chevrolet trucks. The brand’s first truck was sold in January of 1918. Since then, Chevrolet has sold more than 85 million trucks.
“Think of this as an all-new truck 100 years in the making,” Batey said.