General Motors Eyes Carbon Fiber Beds for Future Pickups

General Motors, the company that ran a campaign criticizing Ford for moving away from steel on its F-Series, is expected to implement carbon fiber in the beds of large pickup trucks within two years. Hopefully, the wait gives consumers time to forget some rather negative ads that bemoaned the use of aluminum for its high repair costs and chance of deformation in an impact.

Carbon fiber is ridiculously strong and should hold up in any side-by-side impact test against aluminum. That is, until you start considering price. Carbon fiber costs substantially more to manufacture, form, and fix than either steel or aluminum. That’s probably why GM plans to limit its usage to only highest trim levels, at least until it can figure out a way to keep production costs down. 

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, General Motors doesn’t want to keep the exotic weave limited to ultra-expensive models indefinitely. It’s considering the widespread implementation of carbon fiber, as the lightweight material would improve fuel economy by cutting down on weight. But selling it to consumers might be difficult. We know that truck buyers are willing to spend more than ever on a pickup but we don’t know if they’ll option for a bed that isn’t steel without it being roped into an appetizing premium package. They certainly didn’t with GM’s plastic composite beds in the early 2000s.

Carbon fiber isn’t the only lightweight material that appears destined for the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, either. The report indicated that we might soon see more aluminum used in both vehicles’ construction — again, to save weight.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the engineers in this case. You can imagine one of them mentioning the need to lighten General Motors’ fleet before someone said, “Well, we can’t use too much aluminum. Those advertising people made that an impossibility for us. What about carbon fiber?”

Selective availability or not, simply using the material will give GM some serious bragging rights. That’s important in the highly competitive truck segment, where every added feature or extra pound of payload capacity can make a difference.