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The Big Differences Between the Chevrolet Suburbans and the New GM Defense Department Suburbans

GM Defense landed a contract for $36.4 million to build new Heavy-Duty Suburbans for the State Department. We break down why the new vehicles are so expensive and what the big differences are compared to a Chevrolet Suburban.

GM Defense released an artist’s rendering of a new Heavy- Duty Suburban that it is contracting to build for the U.S. State Department. Technically, they are calling the new Heavy-Duty Suburbans Large Support Utility Commercial Vehicles. The contract is for $36.4 million. GM Defense will create ten of the vehicles over the next two years, with the promise that GM Defense may land an even bigger contract to build 200 of the vehicles every year for the next nine years. No estimate was given for the future contract.

New Defense Department Suburbans to Be Bullet and Bomb Proof

The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is the agency contracting for the specialized vehicles and the big difference is that these Suburbans have to be heavy duty enough to support armor plating and high-tech communications. Of course, GM Defense doesn’t talk about that aspect, it is all top secret.

What GM Defense does say in the press release it that it will be “Leveraging General Motors’ commercial vehicle architecture designed for full size pickup trucks and large SUVs, GM Defense will use significant commercial-off-the-shelf parts, including the body, exterior, propulsion, interior and brakes for their government, purpose-built HD Suburban. The HD Suburban will feature a new and unique body-on-frame chassis and suspension, designed to specifically support increased government vehicle performance requirements with a higher payload capacity and greater ground vehicle weight.”

In other words, the vehicle will more than likely be built to look like a Chevrolet Suburban but it will ride on a Heavy-Duty Silverado truck chassis. Similarly, GM builds Cadillac Limos to transport the President and Vice President but those are also built on truck chassis, carry armor plating and are equipped to allow the president to communicate in the case of Armageddon.

“We’re excited to be developing a fully-integrated, purpose-built HD Suburban in partnership with the U.S. Department of State,” said Steve duMont, president of GM Defense. “The Chevrolet Suburban has been an iconic name in commercial transportation since 1935. Our development contract win speaks to our long-standing legacy of exceeding transportation capabilities and our new, HD Suburban will deliver government-specific advanced mobility solutions to meet the needs of DSS.”

GM Defense says it will use advanced manufacturing tools and techniques to increase efficiencies and quality in low-volume production of the new chassis and frame. The advanced manufacturing techniques should help reduce overall program costs.

GM Defense Infantry Squad Vehicle Contract

As we reported in December of 2020, GM Defense landed another major contract to build the Infantry Squad Vehicle. That ISV is based on the Chevrolet Colorado rather than the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado because the military needs the truck to be small enough to fit inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for air transportability. It also must be light enough to be to be sling loaded from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. That contract is for $214.3 million.

GM Defense located its plant in Concord, North Carolina, because it is close to Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports is also a military supplier. Hendrick uses its experience developing race cars to help develop military vehicles. Much like race cars, defense vehicles must be light but heavy-duty and function in grueling conditions. Race cars can endure intense heat, high speed and high mileage all requirements for military vehicles. It is highly possible that the new Heavy-Duty Suburbans will be built there as well.