DETROIT -- For a program as massive as General Motors' next-generation full-sized truck platform, the automaker typically would begin inking supply contracts roughly three years before the start of production.
But GM's purchasing enterprise isn't doing typical GM things these days.
On the upcoming full-sized truck program -- code-named T1XX -- and other recent vehicles, GM is introducing new practices and more rewarding contracts to encourage its suppliers to work more closely with the automaker, share creative solutions and reduce costs.
Just ask Ray Scott, head of Lear Corp.'s seating division. Scott's team began huddling with GM's product developers nearly four years ahead of production to design the seats that will go into the next-gen full-size pickups, including the Chevrolet Silverado. That was so early that the hard points of the trucks' interior weren't locked in, giving Scott's people far more influence on the design.
Lear worked with GM's designers and engineers on how best to integrate the seats into the floor. That made it easier to reduce mass. And there were sizable cost savings because Lear had time to line up its own suppliers for foam, trim covers and other components. On a typical vehicle program in the past, the schedule already would have been pre-determined by GM and locked in place.
"It basically allowed us to build a crafted seat," Scott said "You're in prior to everything being defined. So you can really influence the craftsmanship, the integration, the design and mass and cost."
The end result: better seats for the next-gen pickups at a lower cost than the seats on the current full-sized truck platform, K2XX, GM purchasing boss Steve Kiefer says.
"In the past, there would have been a lot of compromises and cost in the design because we wouldn't have been able to make changes to the interior space while we were incorporating their product."
Industry sources expect GM to launch the first vehicles off the T1XX platform, a redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, in the second half of 2018. Kiefer and Scott declined to discuss the timing.