General Motors returned to the medium-duty market after a decade-long hiatus with the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 4500HD, 5500HD and 6500HD chassis cab trucks, unveiling the new line at the 2018 Work Trucks Show in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
The 2019 Silverado 4500-6500HD features a bold and muscular front design and is powered by GM’s 6.6-liter Duramax V8 diesel engine. The truck, designed in partnership with Navistar International Corp., was designed to be completely flat to provide greater ease for upfitters to customize. A factory-installed rear air suspension is available for improved ride quality.
The arrival of the Silverado 4500-6500HD puts GM into competition with the Ford F-450, F-550 and F-650, as well as the Ram 4500 and 5500. The segment also includes commercial truckmakers such as Navistar’s International brand, Daimler, Hino, Fuso and others.
GM has not sold a medium-duty truck since it pulled out of the market in 2009. Vocational trucks of such size are typically used for work such as hauling trailers, utility maintenance, conversions into ambulance use and other services.
The Detroit automaker may have to grab market share from existing competitors, depending on the class of truck. Sales of Class 3 through 5 trucks are expected to level this year at about 380,000 vehicles, according to Statista, a market research firm.
The automaker may have an easier road one notch up. Sales of Class 6 and 7 trucks are expected to grow 7 percent this year to nearly 133,000 vehicles, according to Statista.
“It is a mature market and GM is going to have to battle to get back into it,” Steve Tam, an analyst with ACT Research told Trucks.com. The automaker, however, will attract customers who have wanted larger Chevrolet trucks and bought from rivals because the automaker didn’t have the right models, he said.
GM’s rivals are unlikely to yield sales without a fight.
“We’ve been dedicated to this space for a long time,” said Kevin Koester, Ford’s medium-duty truck and F-Series Super Duty fleet brand manager. “Our marching orders are to lead the segment.”
The decision to return to the medium-duty segment is targeted at attracting more business from commercial and government customers, said Ed Peper, vice president of GM Fleet and Commercial Operations in the U.S.
GM Fleet delivered nearly 300,000 vehicles to commercial and government customers in 2017, its most since 2008, the automaker said. The increase helped GM gain 1.4 percentage points of market share.
Peper said that the Silverado 4500-6500HD models are part of GM’s strategy to continue that momentum by expanding Chevrolet’s product segments. The idea that commercial customers prefer to buy vehicles of different sizes from one automaker — rather than purchasing one size from Chevrolet and another from Ford, for instance — is a common refrain among automotive executives.
“The more choices we offer truck customers, the more we drive sales across our entire portfolio,” Peper said. “That’s because brand and dealer loyalty run deep in this business.”
GM will provide order guides to potential customers in spring 2018 with pricing to be announced in the summer. Production will begin by the end of the year.
The automaker expects the new line of Silverado medium-duty trucks to be carried by more than 400 commercially-focused Chevrolet dealers.
The frame was designed to be completely flat and free of obstructions on top. Wiring is fed through the frame itself rather than on top of it. GM believes this will provide upfitters with easier installation and removal of bodies and cab styles.
The trucks will also have lengthened frame rails behind the rear axle to accommodate long cargo boxes and a lightweight hood that provides greater access for maintenance and repairs.
The Silverado 4500-6500HD promise an improved driving experience compared with other medium duty trucks thanks to a hood designed to increase visibility, good turning radius and the availability of the factory-installed rear air suspension.
GM also installed the diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, tank on the opposite side of the fuel fill tank to reduce refueling errors.
“These new Silverados are designed to solve the most common upfit and ownership challenges fleets have with many of today’s medium-duty trucks,” said John Schwegman, director of commercial product and medium duty for GM fleet.
The 6.6-liter Duramax V8 turbodiesel engine is the same powerplant in GM’s Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickup trucks, though with smaller turbochargers, different engine mapping and other slight modifications. In the Silverado 4500-6500HD the engine has been tuned to 350 horsepower and 700 pound-feet of torque.
Allison transmissions send the power to either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
The truck is a joint venture with Navistar, which will build the chassis and assemble the vehicles at its factory in Springfield, Ohio.
According to Navistar, it plans to add 300 jobs and invest more than $12 million in facility upgrades and state-of-the-art equipment to produce the new vehicles.
The trucks go into production later this year. Navistar will reveal its version closer to production.