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GM drops details on major composite projects

Engineers struggle for each ounce of weight they cut from a vehicle. To get a pound out is a major accomplishment.

To lose 60 pounds with one component is a moonshot.

General Motors Co. is ready to launch its industry first carbon fiber bed on the GMC Sierra pickup. GM said April 11 that the CarbonPro bed — which replaces the standard inner steel panels and floor with carbon fiber — saves 60 pounds. It is also dent, scratch and corrosion resistant. GM claims it is stronger and more durable than steel.

The optional CarbonPro bed is scheduled to arrive in limited volume at dealerships in June on the Sierra Denali 1500 and the Sierra AT4 1500 models. GM is ramping up production slowly and expects to have greater availability of the innovative bed in the 2020 model year.

Some of the weight savings comes from parts that were eliminated. For instance, the carbon fiber bed does away with the metal wheelhouse liners used on trucks with steel beds.

Also, most truck buyers opt for spray-in bedliners to protect the painted steel bed from dents and rust. That, also, is no longer needed.

Another advantage of the carbon fiber bed: because it can be more closely formed to the inner contours of the bed's steel outer structure, cargo room has been increased by a cubic foot, GM says.

But all this comes at a cost. Carbon fiber is expensive and time consuming to manufacture. GM has not yet released the price, but it likely won't be an inexpensive option.

"The bed is the working end of a truck. It's what brings buyers to the segment," Tim Herrick, GM's executive chief engineer, full-size trucks, said in a statement. "Loaded with motorcycles, snowmobiles or dirt bikes, CarbonPro in the 2019 GMC Sierra is sure to impress with its strength, space and innovation."

A Corvette sneak peak

Jennifer Altman for General Motors Co. A camouflaged next generation Corvette travels down Seventh Avenue near Times Square April 11, 2019 in New York, New York.

And on the same day GM unveiled more details of its composite truck bed, it also teased the next generation of its original composite vehicle, the Corvette.

In New York, GM President Mark Reuss drove a camoflaged Corvette down Seventh Avenue with CEO Mary Barra in the passenger seat. The skin covering the sports car listed its unveiling date: July 18, 2019.

Details will not be released until July 18, with a special website for the reveal.

Staff at AutoWeek, a sister publication of Plastics News, said the eight generation Corvette — the C8 — will continue its composite body. The Corvette began life as a hand layup fiberglass-bodied car, then moved to other composites such as sheet molded compound. The seventh generation adopted carbon fiber for major body parts.

The new car will have some carbon accents and add-ons, but also use other materials such as aluminum for the frame, according to AutoWeek.

Coupe and convertible body styles should be available, with sources saying four options will be available for the roof, including a dual roof with visible carbon fiber and a transparent top.

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» Publication Date: 12/04/2019

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