With automakers under pressure to improve fuel efficiency, they are increasingly turning to aluminum, composites and other lightweight materials to reduce vehicle mass. But often those types of materials result in higher costs to repair body panels and structural components damaged in crashes.
"Designing automobiles to be both durable and light weight is a challenge for the automotive industry," said John Van Alstyne, president and CEO of the nonprofit I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair), which shares information and provides training to the collision-repair industry, in a statement. "Advanced materials may deliver both qualities, but automakers need to still ensure vehicles are still designed for affordable reparability."
GM says it met this challenge by engineering the 2015 Silverado to be easy and fast to repair.
"The less time it takes to do a repair, the better, as labor is a significant part of any collision repair bill," Silverado Trucks Manager Tom Wilkinson told Edmunds. "Our engineers work closely with groups such as I-CAR, with major insurance companies and with collision repair shops to better understand how to make repairs quicker and less expensive."
As an example, according to GM, the 2015 Silverado's front fenders are structural pieces, so technicians replacing a damaged fender don't need to spend extra time cutting out and welding in new inner supports. The entire assembly simply bolts and unbolts.
Roof panels feature a similar design, which GM calls "plug-and-play." They feature pre-installed studs and pre-drilled holes for accessories, so in the event of damage, they can be replaced with a minimum of shop time.
Even the Silverado's main front frame rails are designed so minor impacts won't require large repair bills. GM says that, depending on type and severity of damage, rather than replacing the entire chassis or totaling the vehicle, it's possible for technicians to cut away the damaged section and replace it with a new unit, shipped fully assembled from the factory.
"This is an ongoing effort," Wilkinson said. "Materials continue to evolve as carmakers engineer vehicles that are lighter (for fuel economy and greenhouse gas) and stronger (for new crash tests). At the same time, we want to keep insurance costs reasonable, as those are a significant part of overall cost of ownership."
The 2015 Silverado is on sale now at Chevrolet dealers.
One of the Silverado's primary competitors is the 2015 Ford F-150. As previously reported by Edmunds, when Ford introduced the all-new F-150 last year, dealership technicians underwent special training to handle repairs on the truck's aluminum body panels.
Earlier this year, Edmunds conducted its own repair test of the 2015 F-150's aluminum body.
The new F-150 also features a modular design that, as with the Silverado, is intended to speed up collision time and reduce repair costs.
Edmunds says: Speeding up shop work on vehicles like the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 should help consumers control the overall cost of owning a vehicle.