DETROIT -- At last month's Detroit auto show, few reporters lavished the redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado with praise for its interior. That was especially true among those who made recon missions over to the Ram stand and did the appropriate comparisons. The verdict: The Silverado has an inferior interior.
The redesigned Ram won near-universal accolades for a stylish, high-quality interior bristling with innovation that is yards ahead of the current model. Chevy moved the bar from the current truck a matter of millimeters with the new Silverado's redesigned interior.
But here's a crazy thought: What if the interior of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado is purposely mainstream?
Every other automaker selling full-size pickups has just one brand in which they can lavish the full might of their design and product development budgets. But General Motors has two brands, and it could very well be that we'll see a truly great truck interior in the next upscale GMC Sierra.
Up to this point, GM has not said a word about any aspect of the 2019 Sierra. That changes March 1, when GMC introduces the redesigned Sierra here, just a few miles from GM's headquarters.
The latest Sierra gives GM a chance to finally change the dynamic between Chevrolet and GMC. Here's what I'd look for: The Chevrolet-GMC relationship will start to mirror that of Buick-Cadillac. Chevrolet is the truck for the working man. GMC is the premium truck for the buyer who wants not only all the bells and whistles of a luxury vehicle but also wants it in a uniquely styled package with equipment and features not available in the Silverado. This makes plenty of sense when we are starting to see luxury pickups sell for six figures.
If I look at the current Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon and other badge-engineered twins, I don't see much difference. GMC vehicles sometimes have slightly nicer (softer touch materials), but the general styling and layout is usually identical to its Chevrolet counterpart.
I predict the 2019 Sierra breaks this practice and sets a new course for GMC that moves it away from Chevrolet. I have no knowledge from any insiders -- GM has kept the lid nailed down tightly on the new Sierra. But it's what GM hasn't said that leads me to believe the new Sierra could be something special, outside and in.
The polite golf claps Chevrolet received for the Silverado must have stung. But the executives I spoke to at the Detroit show didn't show any concern, as if they were saying, "Just wait, the story is not yet complete."
We haven't yet seen anything substantial from Mike Simcoe, GM's head of design, who arrived from Australia to replace Ed Welburn, who retired in July 2016. This was the first year I can remember that GM didn't have a concept vehicle at the Detroit show. So, in a few weeks, we'll see if the new Sierra is Simcoe's coming out party.
That GM would save the introduction of a radically different and more luxurious Sierra for a separate event several weeks past the Detroit show makes perfect sense from a communications strategy viewpoint. Because now, the media will focus on just that truck instead of trying to pick winners with on-the-spot comparisons, in which the Silverado would have fared even worse.
The new Silverado has the technical pedigree -- lightweight body, advanced powertrains, etc. -- but not head-turning style and a class-leading interior. Adding those to the Sierra would be an excellent way to separate the two trucks.