How the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500's Carbon Fiber Bed Is Made

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By Chad Kirchner

GMC invited us to see how the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500's CarbonPro bed is produced and watch the durability testing it undergoes to make sure it's reliable and tough. GMC makes bold claims about the carbon fiber bed, and some customers will likely put those to the test. Here are a few things we learned while we were there.

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GMC Doesn't Assemble Them

The beds are produced at Continental Structural Plastics in Fort Wayne, Ind. The company makes parts for other manufacturers, including the Jeep Wrangler's Freedom Top panels. But it has an all-new building devoted to the creation of GMC's CarbonPro pickup truck bed.

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Carbon Fiber Sheets From Japan

The source sheets of carbon fiber come from Japan, where they are stacked and then put into a press. That press creates the bottom portion of the bed. Additional components are pressed and then bonded to the base to create the bed.

"The challenge is finding the right bonding material to make it work," according to Tim Herrick, GM trucks executive chief engineer. To the untrained eye the process looks simple, but the engineering behind the material choices is important.

The bed is coated in a material to help prevent corrosion. "At the end of the world, there'll be cockroaches and CarbonPro beds," Herrick joked. The company isn't warrantying the bed until the end of time, but he and his team are confident that it'll hold up to the rigors of everyday use.

Durability Testing

The company did everything from drop a full oil drum into the bed and launch a snowmobile and 250-pound rider at full throttle off the bed. Aside from some light scuffing, there was no damage to the bed. GMC says buyers won't need a bedliner for the CarbonPro bed.

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Leftover Material Is Reused

Currently, 30 percent of the leftover material is reused to make other parts of the carbon bed. But the beauty of carbon fiber is that once GMC has refined its production methods, the company will be able to use 100 percent of the leftover material in the construction of future beds. Zero waste going to landfills is a laudable environmental goal, but it also lowers production costs when GMC can use all the material.

Related: Details Emerge on GMC Sierra's CarbonPro Bed, Except the Biggest

Once completed, the LED lights built into the bed are added and the bed is shipped up the road to the Fort Wayne plant that builds the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado light- and heavy-duty pickups. Over the course 22 hours, give or take, the bed and the truck meander through the facility before being started and driven off the line as a fully assembled pickup.

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On average, a new pickup truck rolls off the Fort Wayne assembly line just over every minute. Most trucks won't have the CarbonPro bed, at least for the 2019 model year. Since we're approaching the end of that model year and production is still being ramped up at Continental Structural Plastics, quantities for 2019 will be limited. Buyers of 2019 AT4 Sierra or Denali trim levels will be able to choose the CarbonPro bed when ordering their truck. The trucks include the bed along with special badging and wheels.

If you're willing to wait for a model-year 2020 pickup, many more trucks will be available with the CarbonPro bed.

GMC hasn't announced pricing yet for the bed, but it'll be on sale this summer.

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