It was more than a year ago that General Motors announced they would be building a carbon fiber truck bed for the 2019 GMC Sierra pickup. Some people assumed that meant the new bed would start showing up in 2019 models making it to dealers late 2018. It never materialized.
Well, the carbon fiber bed has finally arrived. Now the question is whether or not it is worth it. Is the extra expense it adds to the cost of a brand-new Sierra justified by what it offers? That’s up to buyers to decide. The one thing we do know is that GMC’s decision to go with carbon fiber has resulted in some significant improvements.
Lighter Than Steel
A big reason for exploring carbon fiber in the automotive industry is weight savings. Carmakers want to make their vehicles lighter without compromising the strength. That is exactly what carbon fiber offers. GMC claims that substituting the old steel bed with a carbon fiber replacement takes about 60 pounds off the vehicle. That works out to a 25% weight savings.
Assuming no additional weight was added elsewhere, saving 60 pounds should improve fuel mileage. It may not be noticeable from one fill up to the next, but the fuel saving should be measurable over the course of a year.
Stronger Than Steel
The second reason carbon fiber is a great replacement for steel is found in its strength. In fact, composite specialist Rock West Composites explains that carbon fiber is stronger than both steel and aluminum. Its strength comes from the alignment of the fibers in a finished product.
GMC claims they tested their new truck bed by exposing it to the exhaust of a portable generator, a snowmobile running at full speed, and the weight of cinder blocks, 450 pounds of water-filled steel drums, and 1,800 pounds of gravel being dropped on it.
Next, GMC’s new carbon fiber truck bed allegedly offers more utility with a greater number of tie-down points and more cargo-carrying space. The extra space is realized in two ways. First, the bed is thinner than its steel counterpart. Second, working with carbon fiber allowed designers to include new indentations that were not practically feasible with steel.
Next, carbon fiber is superior to steel and aluminum in that it is not subject to corrosion. In reality, what we have here is not raw carbon fiber. It is a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) created by combining carbon fiber fabric with an epoxy resin. Because it is a plastic, it will not rust no matter what it is exposed to.
This eliminates the need for anti-rust coatings or additional bed liners. The carbon fiber bed is good to go as is. That is a big plus for truck buyers who really do not want to spend the extra money to keep their vehicles from rusting.
Ready for Sale in June
GMC says the latest iteration of the 2019 Sierra will be on sale at dealerships by June 2019. So if you’ve been waiting for more than a year to get your hands on a new pickup with a carbon fiber bed, now is your chance. It will not be long before the trucks start arriving.
Time will tell if the carbon fiber bed is really worth the extra expense. GMC is banking on the hope that it will be. If they are proved correct, expect to see other truck makers follow suit. If nothing else, the automotive industry is a copycat industry. What is good for one is good for all.