Speculation about the next full-size Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra is practically keeping an entire truck industry on edge.
At a time when the truck segment is just beginning to get some stability and momentum, at a time when the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 are drawing all sorts of attention with their aggressive powertrain and model lineups, and at a time when few economic predictors are pointing in any direction other than "uncertainty," all eyes are on GM to see what its truck engineers have up their sleeves.
We've heard that the powertrain teams took a hard look at all the competitive options and mapped out several possibilities as to what will likely happen in the next five, 10 and 15 years, not to mention the looming 2025 fuel economy targets. We assume something drastic and significant must happen with a next-generation vehicle in one of the auto industry's most competitive segments.
No doubt GM is fully aware of the risk involved, and who would blame them for taking a more conservative approach with so much at stake? But we're hoping a vocal group of internals understands how important it is to push the envelope — maybe even several envelopes — right now.
Producing a vehicle that gets you up to the level of the competition does not cut it anymore. We've seen that strategy played out over and over in all sorts of automotive segments, with long-term losing always the result.
Expectations are certainly high, with quite a chunk of company survival at stake with this core pickup truck. Let's just hope the internals who are riding shotgun to this introduction understand it's much easier to ride the wave of success after you make a big splash than it is to try to increase the size and momentum of a wave after you start slow.
Sure, we understand that GM wants to (and should) keep a tight lid on the information and various technologies related to such an important vehicle. The wrong leak or wrong slip of the tongue could literally cost thousands or millions in sales or jeopardize long-cemented job-hiring strategies at specific plants.
Still, when we hear from someone getting a snapshot of one of these rare beasts in the wild, we have to share what we've found. You can bet we'll have more to tell as we get closer to the reveal and technology backgrounders. (Some say that could happen in late 2012, but it wouldn't surprise us if that got pushed.) Our hope is that we'll see something futuristic, maybe a concept vehicle, at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
For now, we have to wait, but here's what spy shooter had to say:
"We've just gotten our first glimpse at a prototype for the 2014 Chevy Silverado out on the test circuit. We were able to peek through the branches and catch this Silverado prototype moments before it slipped away into thicker cover. The camouflage is predictably heavy for such an important product — and one so fresh out of its design freeze — but some interesting details still show themselves. Most interesting is the Silverado's greenhouse and side-window treatment, which appears to be significantly different [from] the thick-pillared look of the current model. It's not that the pillars are really any smaller, but the way they interact with the side glass, and the roof rails' looks, and backlight to be quite a departure from today's truck.
"Reports have been circulating that GM engineers have plans to cut a massive 500 pounds from the next-gen Silverado, to improve performance and fuel economy. Extensive use of aluminum and magnesium are said the be the most likely course to realize such weight savings, but it's clearly a lofty goal that, if reached, could be a game changer.
"On the design front, our sources tell us that GM planners have been a bit sensitive about the look [of] the current trucks — seeing them as a more feminine look compared to the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram. We're told to expect a brawnier look, and more chrome — especially on the heavy-duty models.
"This Silverado will continue to spawn truck-based offerings in the guise of the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe, which are expected to be under test very soon.
"We've heard production on the Silverado is expected to begin in late 2013 as a 2014 model."