General Motors has plans to introduce carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic materials in their ‘lightweighted’ pickup truck beds as an effort to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards and customer expectations, according to this report from Automotive News. Now how about those bear cage commercials?
From the report:
Two sources familiar with the company’s plans confirmed the use of the high-strength material, which has primarily been reserved for luxury vehicles and sports cars because it costs significantly more than steel and aluminum.
Carbon fiber, according to one source, is expected to be used as part of a mix of materials for the box of the pickups, including aluminum. The truck beds could mark GM’s first use of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic, a product the automaker announced it was co-developing with Japan-based Teijin Limited in 2011.
Flash back about a year and a half, and our own David Tracy predicted that Chevrolet’s shit-talking of Ford’s aluminum beds would come back around to bite them, and it looks like now is that time. Ford introduced aluminum beds to the F150 in 2014 for the same reasons; decreasing weight in an effort to decrease fuel consumption and improve performance while maintaining the truck’s capability, you know, as a truck.
GM has some work to do if they want to convince buyers their plastic beds are tougher than Ford’s metal ones. Furthermore, Ford has received a lot of trash talk for aluminum being expensive to produce, and particularly expensive to repair. But carbon fiber is significantly more expensive than aluminum to produce and repair. Often, once CFRP loses its rigidity, it needs to be completely replaced as a unit rather than repaired.
The report goes on to indicate that the carbon beds will be primarily used on their higher-end models, but expect that as processes get smoothed out and expense comes down it will trickle into the lower tier models. If this report is confirmed, Silverado will certainly become the most mainstream use of carbon fiber in the automotive landscape, and depending upon the scalability of production, could portend a future of carbon-bodied GM cars and trucks.
Since 2012, GM has been dedicated to reducing the weight of their automotive offerings, taking up to 200 pounds away from their sedans, and downsizing the GMC Acadia to be over 700 pounds lighter than the one it replaced.