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 Ltd. 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.