2019 Silverado Trailboss in Detroit
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2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax Diesel to be Built in Michigan

The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 makes its formal debut this week at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and while the most talked-about aspect of GM’s new pickup is the exterior design, the most important aspect might be the Michigan-build Duramax diesel engine option.

Back in December, Chevrolet gave us our first look at the new 2019 Silverado 1500 Trailboss at a special event celebrating the 100th anniversary of Chevy trucks. We didn’t get any real details back then, but we knew then that we would be introduced to the new Silverado in full at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

On Monday, the 2018 NAIAS opened to the media, introducing us to the 2019 Silverado in a few different trim levels while offering up some of the vital details on the next generation half-ton pickup. We still don’t have the full details on the new Silverado, as the company still hasn’t announced things like power numbers, fuel economy figures or pricing, but we know one key feature of the new truck – the optional 3.0L Duramax diesel.

2019 Silverado Duramax Diesel
While the engine details on the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are limited, we know that the new trucks will carry forward the 5.3L and 6.2L V8 gasoline engines from the current models along with adding a Duramax 3.0L inline-6 diesel. We don’t have any power figures yet, but we can expect that this small Duramax will offer the best fuel economy ratings in the lineup while also offering impressive working capabilities. It might not be the strongest Silverado engine in terms of towing and hauling, but it should be one of the strongest engines in the new Chevy half-ton. More importantly, it should offer similar figures to the diesel engines offered in the Ford F150 and the Ram 1500.

The 3.0L Power Stroke diesel in the 2018 Ford F150 delivers 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque while the 3.0L EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500 offers 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque (in the current generation – no information on the diesel engine for the newly-introduced next generation Ram has been announced). Chevrolet might try to out-gun both of the competitors, aiming for figures just above those of the F-150 Power Stroke. Even if the 3.0L Duramax “only” has 255 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque, it will be the most powerful diesel in the half-ton segment while still returning the best MPGs in the Silverado lineup.

Made in Michigan
GM announced yesterday that the 3.0L inline-6 Duramax diesel offered in the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado will be built at the company’s Flint Engine Operations facility in Michigan. Back in 2015, GM announced an investment of $263 million dollars to build a new engine line, and it appears as though the 2019 Silverado 1500 Duramax is that engine.

“The next-generation Silverado builds on the success of our current models, many of which are produced here in Flint. We are proud to expand the industry-leading diesel portfolio here in Vehicle City,” said John Urbanic, Flint Engine Operations plant manager.

The Flint Engine facility current builds the gasoline-powered 1.4L engines in the Chevy Cruze and Volt, but starting soon, the Michigan plant will begin building the new inline-6 Duramax diesel engine.

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First for the good news regarding the 3.0 I6 Duramax. GM will have several advantages, especially if this program is successful. To understand the advantages, one first has to look at the competition. Nissan has a financial relationship with Renault Motors of France, who would undoubtedly be more engineering capable of coming up with a good diesel for a half-ton truck that could keep it out of the 3/4-ton weight limit than what they currently have with Cummins, but from a cost standpoint, and a utility standpoint, the relationship with Cummins gives them little to compete with. A Renault-designed diesel would have limited production capabilities unless they set up manufacture in North America, which would be a huge cost undertaking and very risky if they never meet volume numbers and Titan has never really managed to make much of a dent in this segment. As for Cummins, as far as I know, other than a six cylinder that Cummins worked on with the EPA in the first part of the millennium at the same time that they were working on that 5.0L V8 that did come to fruition, the only other engine Nissan could source from Cummins would be the 2.8L four cylinder that has been rumored to show up in a new mid-sized Frontier that would not work for the big Titan. Toyota has little or no diesel know how. They'd have to source one. That would put them at a cost disadvantage versus GM and Ford and possibly even Ram. I don't think Toyota will even try the diesel route; rather, they may produce and market a full-up hybrid, because they know that arena much better than they know diesels, and due to their weakness in diesel tech, they'd be able to offer a hybrid with similar results cheaper than they could a decent diesel choice. Ram sources, or has sourced before the ban, a 3.0 V6 Ecodiesel from VMI of Italy. There is rumor of Fiat working on an inline diesel design in Italy in the displacement range of 3.5-4.5. If this happens, Ram would be able to better compete, however, it would still not put them on par with GM, because GM will have domestic production capable of ramping up or down very quickly and will save on shipping costs versus a European-made inline diesel for the Ram. Ford is in a position much like what Ram might be if they get a Fiat-built diesel 1/2-ton engine, but compared to a possible upcoming inline Fiat engine and an all-new Duramax inline 6, the Ford PSD will be an older design and is a slightly more expensive V-type motor. The 3.0 PSD was originally built by Ford that sprung from a partnership with Peugeot in the early part of the century, which was absolutely state-of-the-art technology for it's time, because Peugeot is one of the diesel kings of the auto world, but will show it's age once GM comes forth with an all-new Duramax. So GM's diesel endeavor will have the highest upfront commitment and origination costs, but in the long run, they'll have advantage if they actually produce and sell some volume. The advantage of in house design and domestic production, and the advantage of being able to design and build the latest and greatest from what technology has to offer, and a big part of that, especially as it relates to expensive diesel manufacture and emission certification, is the possibility or cost savings. Nowadays, solenoid injectors are back, but GM is the only one that has them in our market; they are cheaper than piezo, and can now once again meet emissions standards. GM has also utilized cast iron block designs in their latest diesel offerings, which has a cost advantage over GCI, if they can package it at weight low enough to make it competitive performance wise. Now for the bad news...As stated above, GM has found some cost savings in some of their latest diesel products. GM is now the light-duty diesel leader for North America; sort of taking up the hole left by VW. They have a 1.6L that they offer in three vehicles. It's cast iron; it has solenoid injectors. They also have a 2.8L Duramax offered for a lot of extra $$$ in the Colorado and Canyon pickup; it's cast iron block; it has solenoid injectors; it's built in Thailand. But despite the cost advantage it would seem that GM has found through reduction of production and material costs, GM has not shown so far that they are willing to offer any more value to the customer than if they had not found those savings. And so my prediction, based on GM's recent history regarding advanced power train choices and availabilities, is that they will put those cost savings in their coffers and brag about to investors, and bypass giving their customers value.
GM has been doing a masterful marketing job so far with the introduction of their upcoming new pickups. The latest announcements reveal some stunning news: We now know what I expected from the gas engines; they're going to introduce Delphi's dynamic skip fire technologies for fuel savings, which should be on the order of matching Ford's downsizing and turbo charging for low-load scenario and this will give customers more choice in the lower cost, more mainstream power train choice arenas. I think that Delphi had previously announced that the cost for this technology is in the hundreds as an add-on system, and considering that GM was already using active fuel management technology, this should allow them to provide at least on par FE with F150 without much add on to their cost structure. Delphi has also demonstrated this displacement management strategy in combination with mild hybrid system, so maybe that's foreshowing what's to come for the 2019 GM pickups. GM also announced this diesel engine and a couple of transmission reveals with specific engine choices, but they also managed to leave plenty of suspense, because they announced that there will be a total of six power train choices, but only revealed three of them to us at the auto show. So now what? We know that next-generation cylinder deactivation and a very huge commitment towards a diesel product will be in the mix; but what will the other power trains be. Will the 4.3 V6 return as the base, or will it be something new or different? There have been rumors of a four cylinder turbo mild hybrid as a possibility from both Ram and GM, but Ram, at least at first, will offer mild hybrids but connected to the same and not reworked engines. So will GM offer both a downsized turbo strategy and a cylinder deactivation strategy and a diesel strategy and a mild hybrid strategy as part of these six power trains, or just one or two? It will be very interesting to see what they other three will be, but we have to assume that their will be a base engine smaller than the 5.3L V8; and it could be naturally aspired or it could be turbo; or we could have both; we could have some mild hybrid choices with a base engine or the 5.3 or the 6.2 or all three of them. Lots of suspense. GM is really going big with the new truck, and that's good to finally see someone step up to "the bar".