The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is redesigned from the ground up, but it does not boast flashy features such as space-age materials, electrified powertrains and iPad-sized touchscreens.
Instead the new Silverado incorporates proven technologies that revolve around toughness and capability.
“This is a truck that really focuses on function first,” said Ed Kim, a vice president at AutoPacific, an industry consulting firm. “It really seems to deliver where no-nonsense customers want it to.”
General Motors showed the 2019 Silverado at an off-site location ahead of the 2018 Detroit auto show on Saturday. The show, formally known as the North American International Auto Show, opens to the public Saturday.
The new Silverado will serve as the automaker’s flagship. Its family of light-duty and heavy-duty pickup trucks was the second-best-selling vehicle in the U.S. in 2017. Only the Ford F-Series outsells the Silverado.
In its redesign Chevrolet did not use an all-aluminum body and truck bed as Ford debuted on the F-150 in 2015. Instead, the automaker focused on a strategic use of metals to shave weight.
The bed is made from a stronger, lighter-grade steel alloy than previous Silverado models.
The doors, hood and tailgate are lightweight aluminum. The frame is made of 80 percent high-strength steel, and the front suspension features forged-aluminum upper control arms.
The result is a total weight savings of 450 pounds over the outgoing model.
“Our mixed-materials strategy provides a clear advantage for us,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s global product development chief.
“We selected the right material for each application and optimized every component for mass, durability, safety and function, all to meet the needs of our customers,” Reuss said.
GM employed a new manufacturing process that reduces the space between the inner and outer sidewalls of the bed. As a result, the width of the bed floor increased by 6.75 inches, and cargo volume will be a class-leading 63 cubic feet.
“It makes it much easier to run tools or material to the job site or to haul equipment,” Reuss said.
The number of tie-downs has increased to 21. Twelve of them are fixed and can hold up to 500 pounds each, double the maximum capacity of the outgoing Silverado. New lockable storage bins over the wheel wells will offer 7 cubic feet of space while still accommodating a full sheet of plywood to lie flat on the bed floor, Reuss said.
Chevrolet will also introduce an industry-first power tailgate in the 2019 Silverado. It can be raised or lowered by pushing a button on the key fob or inside the cabin. The handle on the tailgate will also open and close it automatically.
GM will offer the 2019 Silverado in a variety of styles and configurations to appeal to customers’ unique tastes. There are eight trims that range from the spartan Silverado Work Truck and sporty RST to the off-road LT Trailboss and luxurious High Country.
Three engines will be available at launch, including a new turbocharged 3.0-liter Duramax diesel six cylinder. The diesel engine has not been rated for fuel economy by the Environmental Protection Agency but will best the 30-mpg rating of Ford’s new diesel engine, Reuss said.
“I am really confident that we will have the best-performing diesel in this segment,” he said.
Updated versions of the 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8 engines will also be available. The V8 engines will use a new technology called Dynamic Fuel Management. The system is able to shut off between one and seven cylinders depending on speed and load, increasing efficiency.
The 3.0-liter diesel and 6.2-liter V8 come standard with start-stop technology. Both are mated to the 10-speed automatic transmission that General Motors developed with Ford. The transmission is currently available on the Cadillac Escalade and Ford F-150.
GM has not said which transmission will be paired with the 5.3-liter V8.
Chevrolet designers wanted to convey the look of an advanced, modern truck without straying from the Silverado’s workman roots. The vehicle maintains its familiar boxy cab and wide front fascia.
However dramatic curves and ridges portray a leaner style than previous generations. The wheel wells have been rounded in a departure from the traditional square style. The word “Chevrolet” is stamped into the rear tailgate on all trim levels — an homage to Chevy trucks from the 1950s and '60s.
The 2019 Silverado will also come with new safety and infotainment features, Reuss said.
“The safety cage around the passenger compartment uses seven different grades of steel to provide passenger protection,” he said. The automaker said it will reveal more safety information in the future.
Chevrolet sold nearly 586,000 of its light- and heavy-duty Silverados in 2017, a 1.9 percent increase compared with 2016, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp.
But as sales increased, its share of the full-size pickup segment slipped to 24.7 percent in 2017 from 25.6 percent in the prior year. Both the Silverado 1500-3500 and the Ram 1500-3500 lost ground to the Ford F-Series, which surpassed 896,000 sales in 2017.
The full-size pickup truck market grew by 5.6 percent in 2017 as American buyers continue to shift from smaller passenger sedans to larger light trucks, a category that includes pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
Light truck sales made up 63.2 percent of the total U.S. auto industry in 2017. That is an increase from 59.5 percent of total sales in 2016. Some experts believe the shift in customer preference from cars to light trucks is permanent.
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado debut is one of three high-profile truck model launches being made this week at the Detroit auto show. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will launch the latest generation of its Ram 1500 pickup Monday. Ford unveiled its new Ranger midsize pickup truck Sunday.
“The Ram and Silverado are two of the highest volume vehicles in the country,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at IHS Markit.
“These are vehicles that people really buy,” Brinley said.
As pickup sales have grown the category “has become a much more cutthroat competitive segment,” said Ed Sanchez, an automotive industry analyst at Strategy Analytics. “Fifteen years ago the product cycle was much longer, but now it seems almost every year they are trying to one-up each other with improvements and new models.”
The previous generation Chevrolet Silverado debuted as a 2014 model, Kim said.
“A full model change in five years is a testament to this new market and how much GM depends on full-size trucks to fund all the things they’re focusing on these days, like autonomous cars,” he said.
The 2019 Silverado may not be a huge leap forward technologically, but it checks all the boxes its customers want, Kim said. Chevrolet has a reputation for tough, dependable trucks that can handle any job because of things like a wide bed floor and strong tie-downs.
“Some of you might think tie-downs are not that exciting,” Reuss said.
“Just ask some of our customers how important they are, and you will understand why they are important to us,” he said.
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado will go on sale in the second half of 2018. Pricing and fuel economy figures were not announced.