It may be freezing outside, but the truck wars are getting red hot.
Chevrolet released a sneak peek of its all-new 2019 Silverado pickup on Saturday, ahead of its public debut at the Detroit auto show in January. The Silverado is Chevy’s first all-new product since Ford rocked the truck world at the 2014 show with its aluminum-skin F-150.
The F-150 inspired speculation that Chevy and its other chief Detroit rival, Ram, would also need to go to lighter, more expensive aluminum to meet more-stringent fuel economy regulations. But the first look at the Silverado suggests otherwise.
Behind the Chevy’s bold bow-tied face is reportedly a new chassis and skin made of mixed metals. For example, Chevy teases that a higher-grade alloy is “used in the roll-formed, high-strength-steel bed floor, contributing to a bed that is more functional and lighter weight.”
Although it reportedly will offer an even lighter carbon-fiber bed as an option in higher trim-levels, Chevrolet’s decision to stick with a steel bed reinforces its hard-hitting, 2016 ad campaign against Ford that showed a dropped toolkit puncturing the F-150’s aluminum bed. Chevy also promises more weight-savings with new-generation truck after Ford’s aluminum body shaved up to 700 pounds. Ford’s diet plan brought the F-150 more in line with the relatively lightweight steel Chevy.
Ram, the other Detroit Three player in the light-duty pickup wars with 21 percent of the market, will reportedly stick with steel when it also introduces a remade truck at the Detroit show.
Dropped on to stage by chopper, the Silverado’s intro came in spectacular style at Texas Motor Speedway in front of Chevy truck customers - and special guest Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - who were gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chevy Trucks.
“Today we surprised nearly 1,000 Truck Legends owners with a sneak peek of the next-gen Silverado,” said Chevy Truck marketing chief Sandor Piszar. “Its the perfect ending to our Centennial - and perfect kick off for the next 100 years of Chevy Trucks.”
The three pictures of the Silverado show off the LT Trailboss trim, one of eight 2019 Silverado models. The Trailboss trim includes the off-road performance package found on the Z71 trim with a two-inch suspension lift.
While maintaining the Silverado’s traditional, ginormous “sandwich” grille anchored by the Chevy bow tie, the headlights are narrower. The body, too, is more sculpted than before – replacing the blocky fenders and rocker-panels with curvier, grooved stampings.
The mirrors are now mounted on the doors instead of the A-pillar – likely for better driver visibility.
The rear bed maintains Silverado’s signature vertical taillights and its corner bumper-step for easy bed access. The tailgate gets a fresh look with “Chevrolet” stamped across it.
Chevy promised more engine/transmission combinations without further details, but expect an expanded lineup of powertrains to match Ford’s array of V-6, V-8 and diesel power plants.
Ford and General Motors dominate the U.S. truck market. The F-series sold more than 820,000 trucks in 2016 (pickup sales numbers include light-duty F-150 and heavy-duty model trucks). The Silverado sold more than 570,000 pickups in 2016 – and nearly 800,000 when combined with its cousin, GMC Sierra.
The trucks are key profit-drivers for both companies as they pour capital into a new era of electric and autonomous cars.
Tune in for more heavy truck artillery as the truck wars move into Cobo Hall next month.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.