DETROIT -- General Motors plans to use carbon fiber for the beds of its redesigned full-size pickups to improve performance and reduce weight, Automotive News has learned.
Two sources familiar with the company's plans confirmed the use of the high-strength material, which has primarily been reserved for luxury vehicles and sports cars because it costs significantly more than steel and aluminum.
Carbon fiber, according to one source, is expected to be used as part of a mix of materials for the box of the pickups, including aluminum. The truck beds could mark GM's first use of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic, a product the automaker announced it was co-developing with Japan-based Teijin Limited in 2011.
Carbon fiber is considerably stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum, but it's more expensive, mostly because of a long, labor-intensive production process. As a result, the composite is used only for select parts in low-volume vehicles.
The carbon fiber bed is expected to be among a significant number of changes in materials for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups to meet progressively stricter fuel economy regulations and better position them against crosstown rival and truck leader, Ford Motor Co.
Ford shifted its F-series pickups, including the full-size F-150, to lightweight aluminum alloy bodies starting in 2014.
GM, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is anticipated to begin offering the carbon fiber beds within the next two years. The Journal reported that the carbon fiber beds would go in premium versions of the pickups, but more efficient production processes could help the automaker eventually offer carbon fiber beds in lower trims.
A GM spokesman declined to comment on the next-generation pickups. He reiterated the company's strategy on new and redesigned products using "the right materials in the right place" to reduce weight "without any sacrifice of safety, ride dynamics or utility."
The redesigned Silverado and Sierra pickups are expected to be unveiled soon and go on sale next year without the carbon fiber beds.
It was unclear how much the carbon fiber would add to the price of the trucks.
GM's vehicle lineup has been on a massive diet since the current-generation pickups were unveiled in 2012.
GM has significantly cut weight of its redesigned vehicles -- from more than 200 pounds off sedans such as the Chevrolet Volt and Cruze to a 700-pound decline for the downsized GMC Acadia.
The workout regimen started when GM CEO Mary Barra was head of the company's product development in 2013.
Then-GM CEO Dan Akerson vowed to cut the weight of new vehicle models 15 percent by the 2016 model year.
Many analysts were surprised GM did little to actually lower the weight of the pickups, which hadn't been redesigned in six years.
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