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Chevy revives Trailblazer as 2021 small crossover

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  May 29, 2019

DETROIT — General Motors is resurrecting the Chevrolet Trailblazer as a small crossover, padding the U.S. lineup at its biggest division with another crossover as more Americans abandon the traditional sedan.

The 2021 Trailblazer will slot between the subcompact Chevrolet Trax and compact Chevrolet Equinox, the company said Wednesday. The vehicle, which was unveiled last month in China, will go on sale in the U.S. in early 2020.

The new Trailblazer takes heavy design cues from the Chevrolet Blazer, a familiar SUV nameplate GM resurrected last year as a midsize crossover. Like the 2019 Blazer, the Trailblazer will include an RS trim with standard two-tone roof.

GM last produced the Trailblazer for the U.S. with the 2009 model year. During the SUV craze of the early 2000s, TrailBlazer was a very successful midsize SUV, offered in five- and seven-passenger versions.

Chevrolet discontinued the TrailBlazer in 2008 amid rising gasoline prices that combined with disappointing fuel economy. It was replaced by the Traverse.

“The Trailblazer’s great design enables more personalization,” Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet passenger car and crossover marketing, said in a statement. “Trailblazer is a continuation of the design language for Chevy’s crossover family and extends our momentum into one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments.”

Chevrolet did not announce pricing and other specifications for the vehicle. A company spokesman also declined to provide additional information about the Trailblazer. 

The Trailblazer is expected to be built on the same platform as the 2020 Buick Encore GX, which GM earlier Wednesday confirmed would arrive in U.S. showrooms in early 2020.

The compact Encore GX and 2021 Trailblazer will be imported from South Korea.

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Chevy Details 2020 Silverado 1500's New Diesel Engine

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  June 3, 2019

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500’s available 3.0L Duramax inline-six turbo-diesel engine is the first-ever inline-six turbo-diesel offered in Chevrolet’s full-size light-duty trucks, according to General Motors.

Chevrolet engineers started with a clean-sheet design and developed an all-new engine. It is priced identically to the 6.2L V-8 as a $2,495 premium over a 5.3L V-8 model or $3,890 over a 2.7L Turbo model.

“From the moment the engine is started to its idle, acceleration, and highway cruising, the 3.0L Duramax performance will change perceptions of what a diesel engine can offer in refinement,” said Nicola Menarini, director for Diesel Truck Engine Program Execution. “With advanced technologies that draw on global diesel expertise, it’s a no-compromise choice for those who want the capability and driving range of a diesel in a light-duty truck.”

Available on LT, RST, LTZ, and High Country models, the 3.0L Duramax diesel rounds out the new Silverado’s range of six propulsion choices.

It is rated at an SAE-certified 277 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque delivering 95% of peak torque at just 1,250 rpm. Peak torque is sustained from 1,500 rpm through 3,000 rpm.

The 3.0L Duramax is paired with GM’s 10L80 10-speed automatic transmission, featuring a centrifugal pendulum absorber torque converter that reduces vibrations to improve smoothness. This combination also offers exhaust braking, which uses the diesel engine’s compression to help slow the vehicle, requiring fewer brake applications by the driver when in Tow Haul mode.

The inline six-cylinder’s lightweight aluminum block and cylinder head reduce overall mass, and Active Thermal Management enhances efficiency and cold-weather warm-up. Ceramic glow plugs also help with shorter heat-up times and a quicker cold start, meaning the engine block heater is not needed until -22 degrees F.

Fleet drivers can gain additional confidence thanks to the exhaust brake available in tow-haul mode. The water charge air cooler, coupled with low-pressure EGR, reduces time to torque. The variable geometry turbocharger helps provide a greater balance of performance and efficiency, and an electronically variable intake manifold helps optimize performance across the rpm band.

Compared to a DOHC V-6, the inline-six architecture offers greater efficiency from the reduced friction of operating only two camshafts and their associated valvetrain components. The I6 configuration offers the perfect balance of primary and secondary forces, without the need for balancing shafts.

Along with supporting elements such as a tuned air induction system and other noise-attenuating elements, the 3.0L Duramax delivers exceptional quietness and smoothness at all engine speeds.

The Duramax 3.0L utilizes new low-pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation to optimize performance and efficiency. The EGR system diverts some of the engine-out exhaust gas and mixes it back into the fresh intake air stream, which is drawn into the cylinder head for combustion. That lowers combustion temperatures and rates.

Traditionally, EGR systems in diesel applications recirculate exhaust gases between the two high-pressure points, the exhaust manifold(s) and intake manifold. However, it generally requires efficiency-robbing assistance from the turbocharger or other supporting elements to achieve the pressure differential required for sufficient EGR flow rates.

The new low-pressure system adds to the high-pressure system, supporting continual adjustment of exhaust backpressure for more efficient operation. It recirculates gases between the low-pressure points in the exhaust system (downstream of the particulate filter) and after the compressor inlet.

When the low-pressure EGR is activated by an electronically controlled valve, the engine burns exhaust gas that has already passed through the particulate filter. That increases the turbocharger’s efficiency, which helps overall vehicle efficiency without deteriorating the rate of particulate matter emitted by the engine.

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Might be to early to purchase before the bugs are out.

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GM urges patience as Silverado falls to No. 3

Michael Wayland, Automotive News  /  June 17, 2019

Sticking to its focus on profit, not share

DETROIT — General Motors' prolonged ramp-up of the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado has put the longtime No. 2 pickup in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position: third in Detroit's three-way race.

Ram has beaten the Silverado in nine of the past 10 months, according to U.S. sales estimates from the Automotive News Data Center that have been validated by GM's quarterly reports. The Ram has outsold the Silverado by 36,619 since the latest Silverado 1500 hit dealerships in August and holds a lead of nearly 22,000 five months into 2019.

Including the GMC Sierra 1500, which was also redesigned at the same time, GM's full-size pickup share was down 3 percentage points in the first five months of 2019 compared with the same period a year earlier.

With the Sierra, GM remains in second place in the full-size segment, behind Ford Motor Co.

But GM executives insist the shake-up in a closely watched battle with major image and profit implications isn't a sign of trouble. They say the trucks' launch is going as planned and that GM is focused on profits, not market share.

Barry Engle, who became GM's president of the Americas on April 1, played down declining Silverado sales as a "temporary phenomenon" that will be corrected with more capacity and a normalization of production.

"Given our limited availability, we deliberately launched with a really high mix in trims," Engle told Automotive News this month. "But as we get broader availability and get the full portfolio out there, we'll be just fine."

Broader availability includes increasing annual capacity of the pickups by 60,000 — 40,000 for the heavy-duty models and 20,000 for the 1500s.

The increased capacity will aid plans to roughly double production of the Silverado Trail Boss, an off-road-inspired trim, to more than 20 percent of the mix, Engle said. The increase is a result of the brand's national dealership council saying retailers needed more inventory of the models."We're selling every one of those we can make, and the real demand for that thing is probably double what we thought it would be and what we capacitized at," he said. "The dealers are just screaming for more."

GM also has not started selling the redesigned pickups to fleet customers in any significant numbers, Engle said. Fleet will be "all plus business" on top of the automaker growing its retail share of the market, he said.

The Silverado's share of the light-duty retail market, according to Engle, has risen from 21 percent in January to 26.4 percent in May. The Sierra is up 1.9 percentage points to 10.5 percent, GM said.

"I think you see a trend there," he said. "We're back and we're, as I've described, just starting to hit our pace."

GM has touted the introduction of its so-called T1 trucks, which also include its full-size pickups and SUVs, as the automaker's single-largest launch ever in terms of resources.

‘Fleet is flat'

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley made Ram's intentions to outsell Chevrolet well-known last year, after the company's redesigned pickups hit the market months before GM's.

GM has sold more than 800,000 full-size pickups in the U.S. on average over the past four years. However, combined sales of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado are down 7.9 percent in 2019 through May, according to Automotive News Data Center estimates. In contrast, Ram pickup sales are up 22 percent.

Randy Marion, owner of Randy Marion Chevrolet in Mooresville, N.C., said he has "no issues" with the redesigned Silverado but looks forward to getting more vehicles for his fleet business, which ranks among the top five in the country for Chevy.

"Our days' supply is very low on the fleet and commercial side of it," Marion said. "Our retail Silverado is up 27 percent over last year, and our fleet is flat."

GM and its dealers started June with an estimate of 200,000 Silverados on hand, roughly equal to the number of Rams in inventory, and an estimated 74,000 Sierras, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Based on how quickly the vehicles are selling, those figures equate to a 99-day supply for the Silverado, 98 days for the Sierra and 85 days for Ram.

Another longtime Chevrolet dealer who asked for anonymity to avoid repercussions from the factory said the Silverado rollout has been ineffective for dealers due to a lack of incentive support, the increased pressure from Ram, and difficulty getting certain trims and engines earlier in the launch.

Average incentives for the Silverado and Sierra have been about $500 less than Ram in 2019 but $1,500 more than the Ford F series, according to estimates from Autodata.

GM President Mark Reuss last week said he always has a wary eye on competitors but that the company is on plan and just beginning to sell lower-priced models of the pickups — a part of the segment where Ram has been aggressive with incentives and leasing.

"We look at that and monitor it and, yeah, we're always worried about it, but we've got a great truck and we continue to roll it out in a high mix," he said June 12 after announcing a $150 million investment in Flint, Mich., to help increase production of the Silverado HD and Sierra HD. "And now we're getting into the work truck and the high-volume, lower end of the price points on the T1s. We've got a good plan."

Ram's U.S. sales through May were 231,382, vs. an estimated 209,688 for the Silverado. Including an estimated 77,873 for the Sierra, GM still led FCA in full-size pickups by about 56,000, though both companies trail the F series, which has posted sales of 368,972 this year.

Quicker launches

Last week, GM started shipping the 2020 Silverado HD and 2020 Sierra HD to dealers. The production ramp-up for those pickups will continue this year, ahead of the expected arrival of GM's redesigned full-size SUVs in 2020.

Each of those launches, Engle said, will take less time than the rollout of the 1500 pickups, as they involve lower volume and only one plant at a time. The company also is applying lessons learned from launching the 1500s to those products.

"It will be the same measured approach, the same idea, the same philosophy, but we will be able to accelerate it," Engle said. "It won't take as long."

GM started producing crew-cab models of the redesigned 1500 pickups in July in Fort Wayne, Ind., followed by double-cab models in October. GM's plant in Silao, Mexico, came online with regular-cab and crew-cab models around the beginning of the year. The pickups started arriving at dealerships in August, about four months after Ram began shipping its pickups.

"We've got a plan," Engle said. "We're in this for the long haul."

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Silverado versus Ram [aka. Dodge Truck]

Silverado sales margin over Ram
2015 150,422
2016 85,458
2017 85,141
2018 48,601
2019* -21,694
*Through May

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"We've got a plan," Engle said.

They didn't have a plan before?  Or was it years and years of bad plans?

 

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GM ponders an electric Hummer

David Welch, Bloomberg  /  June 17, 2019

DETROIT -- A zero-emission Hummer sounds as paradoxical as non-alcoholic whiskey, but General Motors is mulling over the idea of building an electric vehicle that would bring the defunct gas-guzzling brand back to life.

For now, it’s just an idea GM is considering as it plans which vehicles will be included in a fleet of electrified SUVs and trucks, say people familiar with the matter. The Hummer name has surfaced as way to tap growing demand for rugged SUVs with off-road capabilities, while avoiding the gasoline-burning image that made the brand something of a pariah a decade ago, said the people, who asked not to be named because the conversations are private.

Electric Hummer chatter comes as GM is looking to transform itself from a conventional, gas-powered-vehicle maker into what CEO Mary Barra calls an “all-electric future.” Hummer is one of many options GM is exploring as it races to develop the next generation of battery-powered vehicles. Several other car companies also are rushing to produce commercially viable electric-powered models.

When asked about it, GM President Mark Reuss was unconvinced.

“I love Hummer,” Reuss said on the sidelines of a press conference on June 12. “I’m not sure. We’re looking at everything.”

Building an electric Hummer may never come to pass, but without electrification, GM would have a tough time selling a traditional Hummer in an era when emissions rules have become much stricter than in the brand’s heyday.

BEV3 project

GM is currently working on two major battery-electric vehicle programs. The first is its BEV3 project, which will develop passenger cars, crossover SUVs and a variety of other small and mid-sized models. That’s part of the automaker’s pledge to put 20 EVs on the road globally by 2023. The second program would make electric pickups and other full-size vehicles, some of which can go off-road.

In its family of brands, GM has large SUVs -- such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade -- as well as hulking GMC vehicles including the Sierra truck and Yukon SUV. GMC also has Denali-labeled models that denote luxury and an AT4 brand for off-road capable trucks. Any of those potentially could be offered with electric powertrains, Reuss said.

“It’s massive. There might be places where we go first that are not just heavy-duty work trucks but more style and capability for off-road,” he said. “There are lots of things that are very attractive.”

GM kept Hummer after its 2009 bankruptcy but halted sales in 2010. Back then, the 10-miles-per-gallon Hummer H2 made the brand a symbol of automaker indifference to global warming. The vehicle was so heavy its weight placed it beyond the reach of federal government rules for fuel-economy tests, further enraging environmentalists. Hummer’s death knell came when oil soared past $100 a barrel, spiking gas prices and sinking sales.

GM bought the brand in 1998, six years after AM General debuted it as a civilian version of the armored Humvee military vehicle made famous for its role in the Gulf War. Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an early and very public advocate for the brand and its first model, which later became known as the H1. GM sales started with the H2 model in 2002, a $60,000 SUV made using some parts from Chevy pickups and SUVs. It was a smash hit among buyers looking for brawn and bling, prompting the Detroit automaker to follow up with the mid-sized H3 SUV and H3T pickup truck.

Demand for Hummer vehicles peaked in 2006 with U.S. sales of 71,524 vehicles, but fewer than 4,000 were sold by 2010, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Watching Jeep

Over the past few years, GM has been watching the growth of Jeep, the crown jewel and moneymaker of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and wondering if Hummer might win a piece of that market, said the people familiar with the brand discussions.

GM sees an opportunity to compete with Jeep for off-road vehicles that have creature comforts commanding high premiums, two of the people said. The company’s designers have done work with Hummer concepts and have experimented with Hummer styling cues on future GMC brand models.

Even if GM goes through with a plan to make an electric Hummer, it would be years away. GM’s planned electric-truck project is well underway, but those models aren’t expected to launch until after the debut of the BEV3 architecture for smaller vehicles. Cadillac or one of the higher-volume brands would probably get some of the first models on the larger electric-truck-based platform.

Earlier this year, GM was negotiating to form a joint venture with Rivian Automotive Inc., a startup electric-truck maker based outside Detroit. When the deal fell apart, GM accelerated development of its own battery-powered pickup and SUV program.

It’s not alone in thinking there’s latent demand for large and luxury-market vehicles. When the GM deal died, Ford Motor Co. invested $500 million in Rivian with plans to build an electric pickup. And Jaguar Land Rover Holdings., which has a strong presence in large and luxury SUVs, will sell a plug-in hybrid version of the Range Rover this summer. The Indian-owned, British brand also has joined forces with BMW AG to work on electric drive.

At its annual meeting on June 11, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk said he is pushing hard to get an electric pickup truck that is capable of work duties but drives like a Porsche. He plans to show the vehicle this summer.

Should GM decide to move forward with Hummer, it would need to rebuild the brand’s marketing and retail strategy. The automaker could sell Hummers in Cadillac or Buick-GMC dealerships -- for example in a small, brand-dedicated showroom. Previously GM gave specific franchises to separate Hummer dealers, who were disgruntled when sales ended. That alone could be a hurdle for greenlighting a resuscitated Hummer brand, one of the people said.

Whatever happens, GM won’t be the first to think of an electric Hummer. Schwarzenegger worked with Kriesel Electric to put a battery and EV motor in his own H1 two years ago -- pioneering a zero-emission version of a vehicle that once went by the tagline “Like Nothing Else.”

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GM looks wistfully in rearview mirror and sees Hummer

Jay Ramey, Automotive News  /  June 18, 2019

Axed in the darkest days of the auto industry crisis a decade ago, Hummer is now looking rosier and rosier in the rearview mirror, especially if you consider the rate at which General Motors' competitors are selling trucks and SUVs.

Jeep is churning out vehicles at a pace not seen since World War II, as if suburbanites are mobilizing for Iwo Jima. Ford has not one but two Broncos in the works and has been making noises about ditching cars altogether. Even the Mustang will be some kind of truck very shortly.

Ram has become a runaway hit for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which, if you look at its sales numbers, should really be called Jeep Ram Automobiles. General Motors is scrambling to adapt, seemingly adopting Ford's Big Bronco/Small Bronco tactic by introducing as many Blazer versions as it can. (We wouldn't bet against seeing a giant K5 Blazer at some point, at the rate things are going.)

This brings us to the Hummer brand, which in its best days was a Gulf War I hero despite not seeing much combat and not being armored back in the day, and in its worst days was a caricature of itself in the form of Hummer H2s roaring between gas stations on the school run in some leafy suburb lest it run out.

Arnold Schwarzenegger single-handedly made civilian H1 ownership a thing, all without social media. (Just let that achievement wash over you for a couple of minutes). That's how much power the Hummer brand once wielded, even before GM started churning out slightly more domesticated models.

The gas crisis of 2005 dealt a serious blow to Hummer, but with the oil spigot once again turned back on, thanks to making the Midwest Plains states an earthquake theme park with timing slightly less predictable than Old Faithful, the Hummer brand soldiered on to see something approaching sensibility and variety, thanks to the H3 and the H3T.

But it was not enough to withstand the pressures of the auto industry crisis that also saw the demise of Oldsmobile, Saab, Pontiac and Saturn.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's hard to blame GM for killing off Hummer. A decade ago it seemed that by 2019 we'd all be driving very small hatchbacks that are either hybrid or electric, and hypermiling them to the point that turning on the A/C would make you ineligible for the diamond lane. In 2009, the vehicles of 2019 looked ... a lot smaller than they've turned out to be, and also a lot less expensive. Prius variants of all sizes, all with tapered wheel arches and steel wheels, were supposed to make up the bulk of the country's automotive landscape, and pickup trucks were supposed to be either electric or powered by tiny diesel engines, like they are in Europe.

The landscape did indeed change -- but in a completely different way. Brands once considered above SUVs -- think Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini -- are all aboard the SUV train today, with half of them costing as much as a house in the wealthy Indianapolis suburbs. We don't know when the SUV train will stop, but it's obvious GM now wishes that it had saved Hummer by introducing a Wrangler competitor back when it had the money to do so, thus allowing the brand to survive into the present day.

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Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain Lose Diesel Engine for 2020

Sebastian Blanco, Car & Driver  /  July 12, 2019

Despite the segment's overall popularity, General Motors will no longer sell the diesel versions of the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers because people aren't buying enough of them.

"We have discontinued the diesel engine option for the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox due to low demand," says GM spokesperson Kevin Kelly.

GM added the diesel powertrain to the Equinox as part of its comprehensive redesign for the 2018 model year, and a diesel option was added to the corporate sibling GMC Terrain that same year. A GMC spokesperson confirmed to C/D that the diesel Terrain is also getting the ax.

"We will only offer our two turbocharged gas engines in the Terrain for 2020," said spokesperson Stuart Fowle. "Diesel represented a very small percentage of sales. We believe in diesels in segments where customer interest is higher. The Canyon continues to offer a diesel, the Sierra will offer an all-new and refined 3.0-liter Duramax for 2020, and the next-gen Sierra HD is shipping to dealers now with the most capable Duramax ever."

When GM introduced the diesel-powered Equinox, it hyped the vehicle's high fuel economy and suggested buyers get ready to "ghost your gas station." Indeed, the highway fuel-economy numbers were the best among compact SUVs when the model was introduced.

The diesel powertrain in the Terrain and Equinox used a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel engine that, in front-wheel-drive spec of both models, got 28 miles per gallon in city driving, 39 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined. The 1.6-liter diesel engine produced 137 horsepower at 3750 rpm and 240 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. It was also used in the Chevy Cruze, which stopped production in March.

The cheapest 2019 diesel Equinox was the LT trim, which started at $32,495. This was a $2,400 premium over the same trim with a gas engine. Going diesel also represented a $3,700 upcharge over the base model, which was only available with a gas engine.

In the 2019 Terrain, the cheapest diesel was the SLE trim, which started at $32,995. This also represented a $3,700 increase over a similar trim gas model.

General Motors sold 332,618 Equinox CUVs and 332,618 Terrains in 2018. For the first six months of 2019, GM sold 174,157 Equinox CUVs and 174,157 Terrains. GM refused to say how many of those were diesels. The Diesel Technology Forum says that GM sold 3,045 Terrain diesels in 2018. It did not provide numbers for Equinox diesel sales.

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The problem wasn't so much a lack of interest in the diesel, rather it was the pricing.

Why would anyone buy a base Equinox or Terrain for $32,000 when they can get a premium level Honda CR-V Touring for $32,000-$33,000 with the same miles-per gallon efficiency. The GM interior is made-to-wear-out, while the Honda interior will age nicely. And then there's resale value. 

 

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GM flexes engineering muscle with radical Corvette overhaul

Richard Truett, Automotive News  /  July 18, 2019

TUSTIN, Calif. -- One of the biggest challenges for the eighth-generation Corvette -- the first production model with the engine behind the driver -- doesn't have anything to do with how fast the car can reach 60 mph or carve up a corner.

The 2020 Corvette Stingray looks to be one of the most technically advanced vehicles General Motors has built since it tested the world's first fuel cell vehicle in 1966 and, five years later, built the propulsion and suspension system for the Lunar Rover that drove on the moon.

The new Corvette -- introduced here Thursday -- is a barometer of GM engineering in an era of rapidly changing technology. It will provide a strong test of GM's product development system, its testing and validation methods, and its quality control processes.

If the Corvette launches cleanly with no technical issues from adopting GM's new wire-reducing digital electrical architecture, its advanced lightweight, mixed-material chassis that uses die-cast aluminum parts made in an engine factory, the electric brakes and other innovations, it could bode well for GM as it pushes closer to production of fully autonomous vehicles, which will share some of the same technologies with the new Corvette.

And most important, the retooled Corvette's computer systems, and the speed at which they communicate internally and externally, will determine how seamlessly GM transitions to autonomous vehicles and the vast amount of data processing they require.

Nuts and bolts

GM will begin producing the 2020 Corvette late this year at its Bowling Green, Ky., plant. Since 2015, GM has invested $439 million to retool the factory to build the midengine Corvette. In addition to new production equipment, the plant is equipped with a new paint shop and a low-volume engine production facility called the Performance Build Center, which was previously in suburban Detroit.

"Corvette has always represented the pinnacle of innovation and boundary pushing at GM," GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. "The traditional front engine reached the limit of its performance, necessitating the new layout. In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but it drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history."

At the car's formal introduction late Thursday, at an old military aircraft hangar, Chevrolet officials ticked off a long list of high-tech items featured in the new Corvette.

They include:

  • A new version of Chevrolet's classic small-block V-8 engine. This one retains the 6.2-liter displacement of the previous motor, but has a new block that lowers the crankshaft an inch to mate to the transaxle. The layout helps improve handling, GM says. The naturally aspirated engine is rated at 495 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque. When the Corvette is equipped with an optional performance package, it can propel the car to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds -- the fastest base-model Corvette in history. GM did not mention any future engines in statements released before the media event. However, as part of the plant investment at Bowling Green, a new engine line for the twin-turbo "Blackwing" Cadillac V-8 has been installed. It's possible that higher-performance models of the Corvette could get a version of that engine.
  • Chevrolet's first eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, a gearbox manufactured by Tremec, that allows the driver to shift the car manually or drive it as an automatic. "The performance shift algorithms are so driver-focused, they can sense when you are doing spirited driving, regardless of driving mode, and will hold lower gears longer for more throttle response," said Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer. No manual transmission will be available at launch -- a first for the Corvette in decades.
  • A reengineered suspension system that features coil over dampers, revised electric steering and the Corvette's first electric brake system, which eliminates the vacuum-powered brake booster. That has been replaced with an electronic unit that can be tuned and adjusted for different driving conditions. Other suspension features include a system that automatically raises the front of the car by about 1.5 inches to protect the lower bodywork from damage by potholes, speed bumps and steep driveways. It can be programmed to operate through GPS and can store as many as 1,000 locations.
  • The digital vehicle platform that is the bedrock for GM's future electronics technologies. GM says it reduces wiring and allows for faster signal transmission between different vehicle systems. Vehicles that use the new electrical architecture can be updated via over-the-air programming, similar to how Tesla rolls out new model features.
  • A chassis constructed using the mixed-material process introduced on the Cadillac CT6 and then used in high volume on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. With mixed materials, GM engineers use different metals of varying thicknesses in different parts of the chassis -- the right metal in the right amount in the right place. The approach reduces weight but increases strength. The new Corvette uses what GM calls the Bedford Six. They are six high-pressure, die-cast aluminum components that minimize the number of joints in the chassis. Fewer joints yields a stiffer body, which improves handling, especially under strenuous track conditions. The aluminum parts are made at GM's Bedford, Ind., powertrain plant.
  • Significant weight savings from new materials. The front and rear tubs and dashboard are molded from ultralightweight fiberglass and proprietary resin. GM says the material is so light that it floats in water. The new Corvette also has a carbon-fiber curved rear bumper beam, an industry first, GM says. The lightest 2019 Corvette checked in at 3,298 pounds. The entry-level 2020 model is slightly heavier at 3,366 pounds.

All-new interior

The 2020 Stingray's midengine configuration gave GM design chief Mike Simcoe's team the opportunity to make the biggest changes to the Corvette -- inside and out -- since the car was introduced in 1953.

Simcoe says the new exterior design is inspired by fighter jets and Formula One race cars. But the car's aerodynamic shape also helped dictate the interior's styling. First, because there is no engine between the front wheels, the cockpit has been moved forward by 16.5 inches over the outgoing Corvette. Ultrathin air conditioning vents help lower the instrument cluster, which contains a 12-inch reconfigurable display.

A long strip of buttons, between the seats on the center console, controls the seats, HVAC system and other items. Customers can choose from three types of seats, those designed for street driving to full-on competition seats for track use. The interior is decked out in cut-and-sew leather, real metal inlays, stainless steel speaker grilles and optional carbon-fiber trim.Unlike many other two-seat cars, the new Corvette has what appears to be reasonable cargo room -- and that could prove to be a major advantage over cramped roadsters and coupes battling for sales in a market that is shifting to SUVs, pickups and crossovers. The car has two trunks and can transport two golf bags or luggage. Cargo room totals 12.6 cubic feet.

Big change

An all-new Corvette is rare. For most of the 66 years since the car debuted, it has been built basically the same way --- with the engine up front, the transmission in the middle and drive axle in the rear -- and with the body mounted to the frame. There have been several iterations of the car's underpinnings over the years, and GM has tinkered a few times with a midengine layout, but none ever made production.

Despite the major technical changes, there's no guarantee the car will be a profit-making vehicle for GM. Sports car sales have collapsed. Even inexpensive two-seaters, such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata, have struggled. Through June, Porsche has sold just 4,620 911s in the U.S. The budget Porsche 718 has fared even worse with 2,155 sold through June. The highest-volume Porsche is a crossover, the Macan, with U.S. sales of 9,711 this year.

"Corvette mobilizes a passionate fan base but it's a small group and they don't necessarily represent the next generation of Chevrolet customers," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds. "Moving to a midengine format shows Chevy isn't afraid to take risks to keep Corvette relevant, but you have to wonder if it will be enough to excite younger buyers."

Chevrolet dealers in the U.S. sold 9,731 Corvettes in the first half of the year, down roughly 5 percent over the same 2018 period.

Affordable?

Though final pricing has not been set, and the car can now be reserved, Reuss said Thursday the 2020 Corvette will be priced below $60,000.

Suburban Detroit Chevrolet dealer Paul Stanford of Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Mich., has collected 160 deposits for the 2020 Corvette through Wednesday.

He said the car has the potential to draw buyers from the Porsche 911 and other more expensive sports cars. Stanford believes GM will price the new model within a few thousand dollars of the outgoing model -- $56,995 with destination -- keeping it a bargain among high-performance sports cars.

"They are going to make it affordable," said Stanford, who is on the Chevrolet dealer advisory board. "That's hugely important to the everyday buyer who we've come to know. The Corvette has always been a value proposition in the market. I am honestly thinking we are going to see improved sales.

"I've seen the car," he said Wednesday. "It's mind-blowing."

Les Stanford Chevrolet was among the nation's top three dealers in Corvette sales last year.

And for the first time in Corvette history, the car will be manufactured in right-hand drive, opening up exports markets in such places as Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia. That tactic has worked well for Ford, which boosted volumes of the latest Mustang by adding right-hand drive versions.

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Amazes me that they are going to sell for under $60K. I think it’s smart. Most of the people that I see driving corvettes are retirement aged people because that’s who can afford them. Bring them down around a lot of other vehicles prices and I’m guessing we’ll see more of them on the road. Nice looking car for sure. 

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New Chevy Silverado diesel outpaces rivals: 33 mpg on highway

Richard Truett, Automotive News  /  July 25, 2019

DETROIT -- The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 diesel rolls into the 2020 model year with the highest EPA-certified fuel economy ratings ever given to a full-size pickup: 23 mpg city/33 highway/27 combined.

The 2020 Silverado 1500 debuts General Motors' new diesel engine, a 3.0-liter Duramax turbocharged inline six-cylinder rated at 277 hp and 460 pound-feet of torque. The powerplant also will be available in the GMC Sierra.

In the Silverado, the optional engine adds $2,495 to the sticker price of LTZ and High Country models, and $3,890 to the cost of LT and RST.

The Silverado diesel is combined with a 10-speed automatic transmission and has a fuel-saving stop-start system.

The Ford F-150 diesel held the top spot on the pickup fuel economy leaderboard for the 2019 model year with an EPA rating of 22 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined.

Ram this summer will offer the only other full-size light-duty diesel pickup when it launches a revised version of its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, which was rated at 20 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined in 2017, when it was last sold.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda do not offer diesel engines in their light-duty trucks, though one version of the Nissan Titan has a Cummins diesel engine and is considered a heavy-duty truck, like the Ford F-250.

How long on top?

Silverado will likely hold the fuel economy title for the foreseeable future. The F-150 would need expensive major upgrades to eclipse the Chevy truck. Ram, coming from back of the pack, would need to boost highway fuel economy by more than 20 percent to pass Silverado's highway rating.

With the addition of the Silverado 1500 diesel, Chevrolet boasts the industry's largest diesel lineup, with the fuel-saving engine available in the midsize Colorado, heavy-duty Silverado and new medium-duty Silverado.

Chevrolet says the 1500 diesel can tow 9,300 pounds and haul 1,870 pounds of cargo in its bed. Sales are expected to start in the fall.

More than drivetrain

Tim Herrick, Silverado's executive chief engineer, said the diesel's fuel economy rating is the result of more than the efficient drivetrain.

While the Silverado has taken its share of criticism for its busy styling, Herrick, during a walk-around of the truck, explained how, for instance, the air curtains on the lower front fenders improve aerodynamics.

"The proportions of the truck, the roofline, the mirrors, air curtains, everything was in line with getting the aerodynamics that could get us great fuel economy," he said. Herrick said the truck has a driving range of more than 600 miles on a full tank.

Although the full model year EPA fuel economy guide is not yet published, the Silverado diesel has a reasonable shot at becoming the most fuel efficient pickup regardless of size. No two-wheel-drive pickup in the 2019 guide has a higher ranking, and all competitors are far behind.

Ironically, the Silverado diesel's fuel economy is higher than those of the company's smaller, lighter Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Those pickups also can be ordered with diesel engines, but their highest fuel economy ratings are 20 mpg city/30 highway/23 combined.

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GM diesel pickup shipments start after certification delay

Hannah Lutz, Automotive News  /  August 27, 2019

General Motors has begun shipping the Duramax diesel versions of its full-size pickups to dealerships, after about a three-month delay related to the government's emissions certification process.

The diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are arriving as 2020 models, not 2019s as the company had planned. Shipments started the week of Aug. 12, but filling the pipeline of orders could take three to six weeks, GM spokesman Monte Doran told Automotive News.

"They are out. They are moving, and we're getting them to dealers as quickly as we can," Doran said.

GM had intended to start shipments of the diesel pickups in May. The redesigned gasoline versions began arriving at dealerships in August 2018.

"The emissions certification took longer than we had expected, so rather than launching them for one month as '19s, we decided to launch them as 2020," Doran said. "That just made some logistic sense."

Tim Herrick, executive chief engineer of GM's full-size trucks, said at a GMC media event in Wyoming last week that the U.S. EPA required more details than expected for the certification. The EPA had the vehicles for more than a year, he said.

The federal government has taken a more stringent position on emissions certification, especially with diesel engines, after Volkswagen Group's emissions violations surfaced in 2015. Other automakers, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and BMW Group, also have delayed launches because of the lengthy certification process.

Fuel-economy king

Sticker prices for the diesels start at $42,385 including shipping for the Silverado and $43,285 for the Sierra. Upgrading to the 3.0-liter turbodiesel costs $3,890 more on trims that normally come with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and $2,495 more than trims with a 5.3-liter V-8.

With a highway fuel-economy rating of 33 mpg, the Sierra gets the best mileage among the Detroit 3 automakers' diesel half-ton pickups, beating the top ratings of 30 mpg for the Ford F-150 turbodiesel and 27 mpg for the Ram Classic EcoDiesel. Ram has not revealed mileage ratings for its upcoming third-generation EcoDiesel. The Sierra's highway rating is 30 mpg.

The GM turbodiesels, built in Flint, Mich., are the first the company has sold in light-duty pickups since 1997.

The Silverado has a 9,300-pound towing capacity and a maximum payload rating of 1,870 pounds. The Sierra is rated to tow 9,100 pounds and carry 1,830 pounds.

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GM selected by UAW as target automaker

Michael Martinez, Automotive News  /  September 3, 2019

DETROIT -- The UAW on Monday selected General Motors as its initial target for a new contract as labor pacts with the Detroit 3 automakers are set to expire Sept. 14.

GM's selection as the target means contracts with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would likely be patterned around what the union can negotiate with Detroit's largest automaker.

The two sides have significant challenges to overcome involving plant investment, labor costs and use of temporary workers. One of the largest sticking points will involve GM’s decision last November to “unallocated" five of its North American assembly plants at a time the union is trying to protect jobs and win additional investment. 

“They’re biting off the hard one first,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “GM is difficult because of the unallocated plants, but it goes beyond that. There’s a bunch of other plants that aren’t running at full capacity.”

GM has been the target in three of the past four regular rounds of contract talks (2007, 2011, 2019). FCA went first in 2015, and workers voted down the first deal presented to them.

"Mary Barra said from the outset of these talks that we will stand up as we tackle a changing industry," UAW President Gary Jones said in a statement. "We are ready to stand strong for our future."

The two sides have significant challenges to overcome. GM has the highest labor cost, at $63 per worker, and the highest gap between with the transplant automakers among the Detroit 3. 

GM also has about 4,650 temporary workers, representing 10 percent of the 46,000 people in its U.S. hourly work force, though its annual average runs closer to 7 percent. The UAW is attempting to lower the number of temps used by the Detroit 3 and offer them a path to full-time work. 

But the biggest challenge of all involves the automaker’s five “unallocated” plants. GM in November said it would not allocate products to Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada, and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Michigan. Powertrain plants in Maryland and Michigan also have not been given new products. The move put the fates of roughly 6,700 hourly and salaried factory employees -- 3,800 in the U.S. and 2,900 in Canada -- in jeopardy. GM and Canada's Unifor union in May agreed to allow GM to convert Oshawa into an aftermarket operation, salvaging 300 jobs.

And the automaker is in discussions with electric vehicle producer Workhorse Inc. to potentially sell the Lordstown plant. 

"We will leave no stone unturned to protect our brothers and sisters at the locations put on the block,” Jones told GM officials at the ceremonial handshake to kick off negotiations in July. “We call on GM to keep these plants open and allocate more products on American soil. It can be done."

Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University, said the union “seems to have some bones to pick with” GM because of the plant idlings. 

“GM was one of the ones that has the higher potential of a strike because of … games playing or working with semantics,” he said. 

Beyond the unallocated plants, Dziczek said the union has some opportunities to win back product and investment.

GM is running at about 72 percent capacity utilization at its North American plants as of 2018, according to LMC Automotive. Meanwhile, Ford is running at about 81 percent and FCA is at 92 percent, according to LMC. 

Strike votes

The union on Monday also released results of its strike authorization vote. Union workers at GM voted overwhelmingly at 96.4 percent, the highest of the Detroit 3, to approve the procedural move, which allows the union to strike if negotiations fall apart. 
Dziczek said choosing GM first doesn’t necessarily mean a higher chance of a strike, although this round of talks is likely to be the most contentious in years. 

The discussions could also be complicated by an ongoing corruption probe, which has recently expanded to involve officials formerly involved with the UAW-GM department. 

Federal prosecutors last month accused Michael Grimes, a former UAW official, of accepting bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash, checks and other valuable items worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is the ninth person charged in the ongoing scandal, but the first affiliated with the UAW-GM department.

The Detroit News reported Joe Ashton, a former UAW vice president who sat on GM’s board of directors until resigning two years ago, was implicated in the investigation. 

“We look forward to having constructive discussions with the UAW on reaching an agreement that builds a strong future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement. 

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GM recalling 3.5 million pickups, SUVs due to braking issue

David Shepardson, Reuters  /  September 11, 2019

WASHINGTON -- General Motors said Wednesday it was recalling 3.46 million U.S. pickup trucks and SUVs to address a vacuum pump issue that could make braking more difficult and that has been linked to 113 accidents and 13 injuries.

The recall covers certain Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Sierra, and GMC Yukon vehicles from the 2014-18 model years. 

In late June, GM recalled 310,000 vehicles in Canada for the same issue. GM did not immediately explain why the Canadian recall occurred more than two months before it called back the vehicles in the United States.

The recall was triggered because the amount of vacuum created by the vacuum pump may decrease over time, GM told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in documents posted Wednesday.

NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation into the issue in November 2018, and said it had reports of nine related crashes and two injuries. It provided GM in July with additional field reports that prompted the automaker to open an investigation. GM said it could affect braking in "rare circumstances."

NHTSA said in a statement the "vehicles may experience brake boost failure, which would require increased brake pedal effort, leading to a hard brake pedal feel, and potentially increased stopping distance."

GM said dealers will reprogram the electronic brake control module to improve how the system utilizes the hydraulic brake boost assist function when vacuum assist is depleted.

GM said the vacuum assist pump, which is lubricated with engine oil that flows into the pump through a filter screen, can in some cases lose effectiveness over time, as debris such as oil sludge can accumulate on the filter screen.

GM told NHTSA that prior model years used a different brake assist system design, and vehicles manufactured after 2018 were not equipped with the affected pump design.

Separately, GM said Wednesday is recalling 270,000 U.S. additional vehicles in three smaller recalls, including 177,000 2018 Chevrolet Malibu cars with 1.5L turbo engines because an error in the engine control module software may result in the fuel injectors being disabled.

It is also recalling 91,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vehicles from model year 2019 because the seatbelt-unfastened warning light will not illuminate for approximately five seconds after the ignition is moved to the "on" or "start" position, which means they are not in compliance with federal motor safety regulations.

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