General Motors redesigned its flagship Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck for the 2019 model year, but sales didn’t take off as expected.
One factor was the 40-day United Auto Workers strike limited production last year. But the truck was ground compared to competitors even before the work stoppage. The Silverado – including the heavy-duty versions of the pickup, had 23.2 percent of the market last year, down from 24.2 percent in 2018. It trailed Ford’s F-Series, and for the first time Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram brand.
Multiple factors play into this. Ram is selling a new redesign of its 1500 truck and a budget-oriented older version. And the sales numbers alone don’t say much about what type of profits an automaker reaps from a particular model.
Regardless of market share, the Silverado, its GMC Sierra sibling, and the related Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUV line account for an outsized portion of GM’s profits, according to Wall Street analysts. GM says it is unphased.
“With the upcoming launch of Tahoe and Suburban, Chevy will have revamped its entire full-size truck lineup in less than 24 months – we’re confident that having the freshest truck lineup with the latest technology will serve us very well in a highly-competitive market,” said Stephanie Rice, a GM spokeswoman.
“We are not interested in a race to the bottom just for short-term sales. At GM, we are focused on sustainable, healthy brand growth and we are very pleased with the quality of our pickup share, fueled by retail, not rental” sales, Rice said.
Trucks.com spent a week and 900 miles in a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the upscale High Country trim package to learn what’s up with the truck. The bottom line: the redesigned Silverado is decent, will work fine if you are a dedicated Chevy fan, but needs some improvement. Our test vehicle was the Silverado crew cab with four-wheel-drive. The standard vehicle price is $56,500 before a $1,595 destination charge. But nearly $3,000 of options brought the price to $61,065, including the delivery fee.
THE GOOD – POWER
The test vehicle has the 5.3-liter V8 engine, rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. That is more than enough power for the vast majority of half-ton pickup truck users. Acceleration was steady and smooth. The truck had not a hiccup cresting Interstate 5 through the Grapevine and the Tejon Pass in Southern California, even with a bed loaded with furniture and household goods. Although this drive did not involve towing, the rating is a robust 9,300 lbs. for this engine configuration.
Silverados with V8s come with a fuel-saving system that turns off up to seven of the eight cylinders. Called Dynamic Fuel Management, the system is an industry-first cylinder deactivation technology that enables the engines to operate in 17 different cylinder patterns to optimize power delivery and efficiency. It’s seamless and imperceptible to the driver.
Like many new vehicles, the Silverado has a start/stop feature that briefly turns off the engine at a red light or stop sign to save fuel. But unlike many vehicles, it works smoothly.
The new truck platform and body architecture allowed designers to enlarge the cabin and add room in the bed. GM added 4 inches to the wheelbase. The truck bed is almost 7 inches wider. The cargo volume is a 63-cubic-feet. The larger bed is a nice feature. We stuffed it for this test drive. You would expect this from a truck maker but it was nice to have the tie-downs in the correct places. And Chevy incorporated steps into the design that reduced reach and made it easy to load and unload.
The larger size makes for a huge comfortable cabin. And it is quiet. That is something that GM does well in many of its models. There is a ton of storage space and many different types of electrical outlets. One passenger on our trip plugged a laptop into the 110-volt outlet and used the vehicle’s WiFi capability to work for several hours. The seats are comfortable the and controls are in good positions for the driver. The head-up display, an option, was helpful for long stretches but washed out at times, depending on the sun position and sunglasses.
The adaptive cruise control works well. The vehicle has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a must for any vehicle these days. The infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use. GM does a good job of not gumming up infotainment controls by adding layer upon layer of screens.
There are also excellent safety features if buyers are willing to shell out more money. Chevy charges $1,095 for a safety package that includes forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking and automatic high beam functionality. Those are essential features and maybe one day, GM will make them standard. The truck’s standard safety features include rear cross-traffic alert and blind zone alert.
This is a question mark. The EPA rates the Silverado at 19 mpg in combined city and highway driving. We reached 18.4 mpg in 916 miles of driving. At least 800 of that on open highways. But half of that was with a full truck bed. Every driver has different tolerances for what they think is acceptable. We would have liked to hit that 19 mpg mark, even with part of the drive with a full bed. Gas prices are low now, so it’s not as much the expense as the hassle of more frequent refills and the extra pollution low fuel economy creates.
While the interior is comfortable, it just doesn’t match up for a truck that tops $61,000. There is too much plastic and not enough soft touchpoints. That is an area where GM has skimped and its one reason why Ram has passed the Silverado. Ram has invested in nicer materials and features such as a bigger infotainment screen. After you get past the base trucks, Chevy doesn’t match up at respective trim levels. Ford is in between the two.
This is the new Silverado’s biggest fault. The suspension bounces occupants down the road. It doesn’t matter whether the truck bed is full or empty or whether the cabin is full of occupants or there is just the driver. It’s bouncy and jerky.
Chevrolet needs to work on these two areas if it wants to regain ground in the marketplace. Ford is about to launch a redesign of its F-150. Toyota is working on a new Tundra. Even the Nissan Titan has received improvements that make it worth a look for the first time. The competition isn’t getting easier. And although truck sales continued to grow last year even as the overall auto market dipped, there’s no guarantee that will continue. That’s especially true if the coronavirus pandemic tips the U.S. into recession.