UPDATED: 2/19/14 10:08 am ET - adds GM statement
DETROIT (Reuters) -- General Motors Co. is working towards a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
GM recently locked-in supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. and Novelis Inc. and both suppliers are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the next-generation GM pickup, according to the Journal.
Aluminum sheet for automotive bodies is in such high demand that companies need to order it years in advance, the newspaper said.
GM has been working to put its full-size pickup trucks on a severe diet to meet future U.S. fuel economy standards and stay competitive with rival Ford Motor Co.
"We are going to continue to improve the fuel efficiency of all of our products," a GM spokesman said today in an e-mail. "For competitive reasons, we are not talking about technical details of future products at this point."
Mark Reuss, GM's product chief, made no secret of his interest in aluminum when he saw Ford's aluminum F-150 pickup at the Detroit auto show last month.
"I want to get my hands on it," Reuss told reporters. "I'm going to be looking at how much aluminum is in it. 'What are the panels? … How are they constructed?' I'm going to look at what they advertise as the weight savings from it. Then I'm going to go back and do some math."
Reuters reported last July that GM will start using more lightweight materials such as aluminum and composites in place of conventional steel.
Ford has already made the switch. The new F-150's latest upgrade's body is 95 percent made of a military grade aluminum alloy used in Humvees and weighs up to 700 pounds lesser than the current truck.
Alcoa and Novelis could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.
Automotive News staff contributed to this report.