GM Ditches Cookie-Cutter Approach With Truck and SUV Interiors| Edmunds

GM Ditches Cookie-Cutter Approach With Truck and SUV Interiors

Just the Facts:
  • General Motors is using a different approach when it comes to designing the cabins of its SUVs and pickup trucks, including the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.
  • In the past, vehicles like the Silverado and Cadillac Escalade shared the instrument panel.
  • But GM found that truck buyers want a taller instrument panel, while SUV buyers want something lower with instrumentation that is farther away from the driver.

DETROIT — Three years ago, as GM designers were conducting clinics for the development of the redesigned 2014 full-size pickups and upcoming SUVs — including the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado — the design team discovered a shocking bit of information.

Pickup truck and SUV buyers have contrasting views on the design and positioning of the instrument panel. The revelation led to GM throwing away its old design rules.

In the past, GM's designers created one instrument panel that was used in the full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, as well as shared by the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

However, what GM's designers learned is that pickup truck owners prefer a taller instrument panel with the speedometer and gauges positioned closer to the driver. SUV owners don't.

"What we found in our clinic data is that a taller instrument panel makes a (pickup) truck customer feel safer and more secure," and the vehicle feel more trucklike, Chris Hilts, a GM designer, told Edmunds. Hilts is manager of creative design for full-size pickup truck interiors.

By contrast, SUV owners prefer the feeling of spaciousness that is created when the instrument panel is lower and the instrumentation is farther away from the driver.

"This was a surprise to us," Hilts said.

Instead of one instrument panel for its full-size pickups and SUVs, a design strategy used for decades at GM, the revelation led to the automaker creating three separate instrument panels. The Silverado and Sierra pickups share an instrument panel. A different design was created for the Chevrolet and GMC SUVs, and a third design was developed for the Cadillac Escalade.

Said Hilts: "Customers do understand if there is an instrument panel in a (pickup) truck, and it looks the same as an SUV's, we obviously cheated them, right?"

The change in design strategy also became part of a new effort to differentiate the Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac brands. The 2014 Silverado and Sierra pickups currently are being shipped to dealers. The redesigned Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade will go into production early next year.

In the past, the pickups and SUVs shared such things as door panels, center consoles, switches, knobs, even steering wheels. No longer: Pickup owners get a steering wheel rim that is thicker, and larger door handles and switches that can be easily handled while wearing gloves.

"The controls are larger and easier to read," Hilts said.

An SUV's interior will look noticeably different from a pickup truck, he said, and the Escalade's interior will be completely different from the Chevrolet and GMC SUV interiors.

In terms of interior design, the emphasis for pickups was function, utility and storage, he said. As for SUVs, the "focus is more on refinement."

"I think if you are spending $50,000 on a vehicle you are going to expect a certain level of sophistication and refinement," he said.

Edmunds says: GM institutes a "no sharing" rule when it comes to the interiors of many of its key vehicles, including the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.

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