Chevrolet is coming back to the medium-duty market in a big way. Not only has the automaker launched the 2019-model-year Chevrolet Silverado 4500HD and 5500HD, but it didn't stop there. Hiding in the wings was another truck — the all-new, Class 6 Silverado 6500HD.
"We see a great opportunity for us with this truck. In the six years I've been with General Motors Fleet, this is the single biggest launch we've had happen in our space," said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of GM Fleet. "This has been a hole in our commercial portfolio and we are excited to re-enter the market moving all the way up to Class 6."
The trucks will now represent GVWs from 15,000 pounds in Class 4 to 22,900 pounds in Class 6.
Medium-Duty Trucks Build on Silverado Brand
The new 4500HD, 5500HD, and 6500HD medium-duty trucks expand the already trusted lineup and build on the Silverado nameplate.
"We are leveraging the strength of the Silverado name with the new medium-duty lineup," said John Schwegman, U.S. director of commercial product for GM Fleet.
The trucks will appeal to a broad vocational focus encompassing landscaping, towing/wrecker, construction, utility, water and gas, the larger side of plumbing, communication, and rental fleets. The new medium-duty trucks are further increasing the payload available in the Silverado lineup.
"We had a number of customers note that a 19,500-pound GVW is great but some of the gas and utility fleets are maxing out on payload," Schwegman said. "So, we are giving customers an additional 3,000-plus pounds in a Class 6 that isn't as expensive as competitor models."
The new trucks were designed with customers in mind, including upfitting needs.
"The truck features very durable, one-piece straight frame rails. In addition, we use huck bolts to attach crossmembers to the frame versus rivets on top of the frame used on competitor models, which means the top of our frame is clean. In addition, we will be painting the chassis black for corrosion protection," Peper said. "From an upfitter standpoint, we offer several wheelbase and cab-to-axle options — seven on the regular cabs and three on the crew cabs. It's going to be an upfitter's delight."
GM brought in several big upfitters early in the process to ensure they had the voice of the customer front-and-center in the design of the truck.
"The configurations, cab-to-axle offerings, and selection of features were based on meetings with our dealer advisory board," Schwegman added. "We talked to select customers on the wrecker and bucket truck side of the business, as well as a few other industries. We made several modifications based on their input along the way."
According to Peper, the new Silverado trucks will be a great complement to the Chevrolet Low Cab Forward truck, meeting additional fleet needs including access to more rugged terrain.
"The Silverado is a conventional truck. The Low Cab Forward is playing well in more urban, delivery-type settings. Around upward of 80% of the trucks are upfitted as box trucks. The Silverado medium-duty will be able to go where the Low Cab Forward will not," Peper explained.
You'll see the Silverado on construction sites, on oil fields, and working power lines as bucket trucks. While the GVWs overlap, the applications have very limited overlap.
Another difference with the new trucks is how they will be sold. "We are going to spend a lot of time training our commercial dealers. While many of the good dealers understand this market, our ultimate goal is to have dealers certified to sell this truck," Peper said. "We want to bring back a modern version of our 'commercial college' to train dealers to be experts on these trucks."
GM expects around 500 dealers will want to participate as part of the medium-duty dealer network. This is compared to the approximately 260 Chevrolet Low Cab Forward dealers.
Powered by a Duramax Diesel Engine
This is a "Silverado on steroids," according to the automaker. The trucks will be powered by a standard Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel engine, which is the only engine available on the Silverado, and mated to a choice of Allison transmissions. The trucks will achieve 350 hp at 700 lb.-ft. of torque.
The trucks will be offered in seven wheelbase options, two trims (WT and LT), and a Crew Cab and Regular Cab variant, providing a number of available configurations for vocational fleet needs.
The trucks also feature an 11,000-pound rear axle, with up to 15,500 pounds available increasing the number of upfits that can be installed without additional, expensive reinforcements.
A 150-amp alternator is standard or fleets can spec available 220-amp or dual alternators (150- and 220-amp).
And, don't overlook the industry exclusive factory-installed engine-driven accessory air compressor paired with a factory installed air suspension.
Looking at the exterior of the medium-duty trucks you will see the recognizable Silverado branding.
From the twin powerdome hood to the debossed Chevrolet branding on the top of the grille, the medium-duty trucks are stylish as well as functional.
"The refinement of the cab is something unexpected in this segment," Peper noted. "We have inlaid doors and a quiet cab for a comfortable ride."
Special Features Include Tilting Hood
A few special features include tilt hood, which will make maintenance a breeze. Sometimes referred to as a "clamshell" design, the hood is hinged at the front. The truck's hood and fenders all tilt forward nearly 90 degrees, giving the operator or tech full access to the engine compartment.
"Our new, tilt-style hood differs from the alligator-style hood you seen on other trucks in this space. It allows you to walk right up to the engine without reaching over a fender or having to pull out a ladder simply to perform simple maintenance," Peper explained.
In addition to the new, tilt-style hood, an up to 50-degree wheel cut further allows someone to walk right up to the engine without reaching over a fender or getting out a ladder to perform basic maintenance.
According to the automaker, driver visibility was a key aspect of the truck's overall design. "We also believe the increased driver visibility is going to be a plus. We have a lower hood design, which provides increased downward driver visibility," Peper said.
The cab also sits higher than other Class 6 trucks, further increasing driver visibility.
Another key exterior aspect is in the center bar in the truck's grille. The bow-tie is open, allowing even more airflow into the engine compartment, just like the Chevrolet Camaro Z28.
The single-piece, straight frame design will ensure the truck is clean and work-ready for the upfitter community, with a clean top-of-frame and minimal intrusions. Additionally, the truck features a clean back-of-cab for further ease in working with numerous upfit options.
Auxiliary Equipment and Ergonomics
Additionally, the trucks will feature seven switch banks for use in lighting and power take-off (PTO) needs, among others as well as an optional set of switches a customer can upgrade to.
Moving inside the trucks, drivers will notice the same familiar Silverado interior with comfortable, durable, and stain-resistant seats and a number of driver-focused features.
Ergonomics and overall driver comfort were very important in the design of the new medium-duty Silverado trucks. The controls are high up and easy to reach, and the dash features easy-to-read buttons and displays. All controls have been organized into groups, such as infotainment, HVAC, switch bank, etc. Finally, the Trailer Brake Controller is located at the top of the dash for easy driver access.
A rear-vision camera system is available with the display integrated into the radio (a 7- or 8-inch diagonal display).
OnStar will be standard on LT trims and optional on WT trims. Both trim levels feature the Chevrolet driver infotainment system.
When OnStar is ordered, fleet customers will be able to choose from various fleet telematics solutions, including Commercial Link and Telogis. "This means there is no need to install extra, third-party hardware, it's already on the truck," Peper said.
Over the past four years, GM has grown its commercial business 51%.
"I think we've been doing it the right way by putting the customer at the center of everything that we do. When I think about the three pillars that we continue to have for our business: our great products, innovative business solutions, and exceptional customer experience, this truck fits perfectly into those pillars," Peper said. "On this particular truck, we've looked for as much feedback as possible and done more canvassing of stakeholders within the industry than anything we've ever done. And, we believe it's going to be a smashing success," Peper concluded.