Some of the most agile on and off-road vehicles on the market today are heavy-duty trucks, like the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2. Automakers have developed special suspensions and underpinnings that take these vehicles virtually anywhere. When GM Defense recently announced that it was awarded a U.S. Department of State contract for next generation of armored heavy-duty sport utility vehicles, it became clear that these next generation vehicles, will be heavy-duty luxury trucks disguised as Chevrolet Suburban SUVs.
“This is a very important program for GM Defense as it showcases our ability to leverage the proven commercial platforms and world-class engineering and manufacturing processes of GM to provide a first-of-its-kind vehicle for the Department of State,” said Steve duMont, president of GM Defense. “Everyone on our team has committed to partnering with the State Department to ensure we deliver the best vehicles to support their mission. We look forward to continuing this partnership and bringing this exciting new platform to other U.S. government and allied defense and security customers around the world.”
$300 Million Dollar Department of State Contract
The State Department has awarded GM Defense a 10-year $300 million dollar contract for an indefinite number of Heavy-Duty armored Sport Utility Vehicle (HD SUV) for use in the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. GM Defense will build vehicles that look like Chevrolet Suburbans. This recent contract grew out of an earlier $36 million dollar contract for prototype vehicles.
New Armor Plating Technique
The newly designed GM Defense HD SUV will break from previous tradition and build the protective armor into the original design and manufacturing process. In the past, the vehicles were built and then sent to an upfitter to have the armor added. The new manufacturing process should provide superior vehicle performance while shortening the build time.
GM Defense’s HD SUV uses a high percentage of commercial-off-the-shelf parts, including the body, exterior, propulsion, interior and brakes. The vehicle includes a new body-on-frame chassis and suspension, specifically designed to support the increased vehicle weight and performance requirements. In other words, the vehicle will 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.
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’s Proven Performance Translates to GM Defense
GM Defense hosted Department of State leaders in July for demonstrations of the newly designed HD SUV prototype. The meeting included high-performance driving demonstrations, showcasing the vehicle’s handling and maneuverability.
While this contract is huge for GM Defense, the GM subsidiary is also pursuing the possibility of building similar vehicles for other government agencies, as well as for other countries that are U.S. allies.
Mary Conway is a professional automotive journalist and has decades of experience specializing in automotive news analysis. She covered the Detroit Three for more than twenty years for the ABC affiliate, in Detroit. Her affection for the Motor City comes naturally. Her father ran a gas station while Mary was growing up, in Wisconsin.
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