2019 GMC Sierra carbon fiber bed: How it's made

Cutting, heating, stamping and gluing

2019 GMC Sierra CarbonPro bed
2019 GMC Sierra CarbonPro bed / Image Credit: GMC / Steve Fecht
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The redesigned 2019 GMC Sierra has some pretty nifty features, and the one that has had the most attention is the MultiPro flipping and folding tailgate. But the Sierra also features the first-of-its-kind carbon fiber truck bed. It's interesting, of course, for its capabilities, such as being 62 pounds lighter than the all-steel box. It even adds more cargo volume since the material can be assembled and shaped differently from steel. As it turns out, the assembly process is cool, too, which we learned when GMC invited us to see the beds being made.

Every GMC carbon fiber bed starts out as perfectly flat sheets of thermoplastic carbon fiber. The sheets consist of a mix of fibers and resins, a bit like the molded carbon fiber parts Lamborghini uses. The sheets are manufactured by Japanese company Teijin, which collaborated with GMC to develop the bed. They're all delivered to Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) in Fort Wayne, Ind., for construction into the actual bed. The company, a subsidiary of Teijin, makes a wide variety of composite and plastic parts for the car industry, including body panels for the C7 Chevy Corvette.

2019 GMC Sierra CarbonPro bed

The rectangular sheets are cut to shape and stacked up at a giant stamping press. Robots pick up sheets and slide them onto a conveyor that goes into a large oven. The heat softens the parts so they can be stamped. The large primary bed parts such as the base are stamped by CSP's enormous 3,600-ton press, and the smaller ones go through a 1,000-ton press. Each press can do different parts using different stamping dies, and CSP switches between dies to produce different batches of parts. After stamping, the parts roll out mostly ready for assembly, but there are rough edges that are trimmed off by water-jet cutters. These cutting machines also create holes for fasteners and for parts such as tie-down hooks and lights.

The stamping process also provides the carbon fiber bed with a unique Easter egg. On the bottom of the base of the bed, there are two words: "Connors Way." This is a tribute to Tim Connors, who was the chief engineer of manufacturing at GM and a strong proponent of the carbon fiber bed. He was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash a few years ago. The words were added to honor him, and they were fortunately approved for production.

2019 GMC Sierra CarbonPro bed

There are some components to the bed that aren't stamped from the flat sheets of material. Scraps that are cut from the main sheets before being heated, stamped and trimmed are ground up and mixed with fresh material, then are extruded into log shapes. These are then heated and stamped to produce some of the smaller supporting parts of the bed.

Once all the parts are stamped, they're brought over to the adhesive cells where robots apply lines of adhesive and hold them together. Heat is applied to cure the adhesive. A few hardware fasteners are also applied as an extra precaution for holding everything together. Once the main parts are assembled, smaller pieces such as the aforementioned tie-down hooks, lights and wiring can all be added.

2019 GMC Sierra CarbonPro bed

Most completed beds are then stacked up to await shipping to the GMC Sierra assembly plant in Fort Wayne to be installed in a new truck. A few beds are pulled from the line for a quality assurance check. This involves a couple of employees tearing down the bed with huge hammers and crowbars to pry components apart.

And that's how the Sierra's carbon fiber bed is built. The first beds will be available on a special CarbonPro Edition of the 2019 Sierra Denali and AT4, complete with unique wheels, stickers and badging. Availability will expand on the 2020 model.

Pricing hasn't been set for the bed, but GMC representatives did say that the CarbonPro truck will be similarly priced to a loaded Sierra Denali, so probably a little under $70,000.

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