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GM Cans Planned Unibody Pickup Truck

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2008 GMC Denali XT Concept

2008 GMC Denali XT Concept

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2008 GMC Denali XT Concept

2008 GMC Denali XT Concept

Enlarge Photo

The Australian-sourced 'sport truck' was planned to make its debut late this year

The Australian-sourced 'sport truck' was planned to make its debut late this year

Enlarge Photo

2009 Honda Ridgeline

2009 Honda Ridgeline

Enlarge Photo

As 2008's fuel prices skyrocketed and the bottom fell out of the new pickup truck market, like many carmakers, General Motors began to look into the idea of a unibody pickup truck to save fuel. But it turns out there isn't much to be gained with the unibody architecture.

Aping Honda's Ridgeline, rated at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, makes little sense when even Chevrolet's own four-wheel-drive V-8 Silverado rates a very close 14/20 mpg for 16 mpg combined. And that's basically what GM vice president of global product development Tom Stephens told Automotive News.

The research didn't bear out the theory, so GM has put its plans for a unibody pickup on the shelf. The vehicle architecture itself also didn't offer the expected savings in construction, making the lower targeted price point of the proposed vehicle untenable, especially compared to standard pickups.

A concept of a GMC unibody pickup was shown at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. Known as the Denali XT (pictured) the vehicle  wore a low-slung stance and four-door passenger layout that further merged the worlds of passenger car and pickup truck.

Unlike the now-dead front-wheel-drive production model, however, the Denali XT featured rear-wheel drive and a V-8 engine. It had been estimated at 50 percent more fuel efficient than a comparable standard pickup thanks mostly to direct injection, active fuel management and the application of GM's two-mode hybrid system.

Fans of the idea of a light-duty cargo-carrying vehicle will remember the Pontiac G8 ST, or Sport Truck, an American import of the Australian Holden Commodore Ute, that was also killed off before becoming a retail reality, even before the Pontiac brand itself was put on notice.

To read about the only unibody pickup truck currently sold in the U.S., check out our full-detail model page on the 2009 Honda Ridgeline.

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  1. I don't believe active fuel management and/or a hybrid system are compatible with the demographics that purchase that type of vehicle--probably won't see those features in the production version anyway. If the XT is offered with a direct injection V6, V8 or diesel, with a unibody (for better handling/braking) and longitudinal engine configuration, GM can reclaim the niche consumer that would be interested in an el camino, ranchero or brat. wrt the Ridgeline, that vehicle's oddball configuration (essentially FWD, transverse mounted) sells primarily because it's a Honda and people assume it's bulletproof and they won't have to visit the dealer so much. On the one hand I must commend Honda on the utility and handling of the Ridgeline, while also whinging about it's ugly exterior, even after the recent refresh. The XT wins hands down in styling. re ladder frame vs unibody, the devil is in the details. The Chevy SSR proved standard SUV architecture can be awfully heavy, so depends on the platform you start with. Good article, Nelson.
     
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