In an attempt to protect its newly built pickup trucks from the harsh realities of road salt, rocks, overzealous container drivers, and harsh weather, GM is investing in higher-quality fabric covers. Although it may seem like a minor detail in the scheme of vehicle production, saving dealers (and sometime customers) repair costs and cleanup fees on full-size pickups that often have been transported across thousands of miles between countries and ports can be a very big deal.
As many as 100,000 GM vehicles will wear these heavy-duty covers to protect them during their long journeys, and that means they need to be properly fitted, in many ways just like a custom-made suit. We're told that if the covers are not form fitted and strapped down properly to the transporter, the wind can actually use the cover material to create quite a bit of damage, with material flapping, rubbing and knocking on the delicate finishes and parts they're supposed to protect. Likewise, the special covers need to have perfectly placed portholes to accommodate the occasional need to drive or see into the vehicle by various inspection bureaus.
The German carmakers such as Audi, BMW and Porsche use thick plastic Mylar (like a thick sticker) to protect their vehicles during transport, but given those vehicles' average prices, the costs are easier to incorporate into the total price. Although GM is not saying how much tailored truck covers will add to overall pickup pricing, the fact that GM sells so many pickups annually (possibly as many as 700,000 this year) is likely help decrease the costs that could get passed along to dealers or customers.
Ram uses Mylar to protect many of its pickups, mainly on the roofs, hoods and bedrails because transporters try to maximize every square inch of storage space in both open and closed carriers. Rams with the four-corner air-ride suspension also have the advantage of dumping all the air from the airbags, allowing the trucks to rest on the bumpstops for transport. Ram 1500s also have a "ship mode" in the electrical system to reduce draw on the battery so that battery cables on transported trucks do not need special equipment or attention.
Naturally, the biggest expenses will be incurred on pickups being shipped overseas to places like the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries (where the SVT Raptor and full-size heavy-duty Chevrolets are quite popular). In those destinations, where transaction prices are much higher, the issue of added cost is almost moot; however, the issue of exterior protection is extremely important in environments with harsh dust and blowing sand.
To read the full GM press release, click here.