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Driven: HSV dealers snap up Chev Silverado

Entire 2018 RHD Chevrolet Silverado production taken by HSV dealers

30 Jul 2018

HOLDEN Special Vehicle (HSV) dealerships have given the locally converted right-hand-drive Chevrolet Silverado pick-up the thumbs up by swallowing the entire 2018 stock allocation of more than 700 vehicles.
The network of 55 dealerships in both metro and rural areas have all been allocated a set number of vehicles according to HSV’s perception of market potential in each PMA (prime market area), although HSV admits it is still coming to terms with the science behind marketing the giant 3.6-tonne four-wheel-drive American utes that could not be more different from the Holden Commodore-based sports sedans that it produced and distributed for 30 years until local Holden manufacturing closed last year.
Factory-backed Silverado 2500HD crew cabs are now rolling from HSV’s right-hand drive conversion factory at Clayton South, Victoria, at the rate of six a day in four five- and six-seat variants, and then heading out to dealerships across both Australia and New Zealand.
All dealerships have taken up their allocation, which means production at the current rate of six a day in the second half of 2018 should be about 750, which should make the Silverado by far the biggest-selling full-sized pick-up in Australasia.
As dealers predicted, the most in-demand variants are the two glam machines – the all-black, off-road-oriented LTZ Midnight Edition and white luxo LTZ Custom Sport Edition, both of which retail for $139,990 plus on-road costs.
Combined, these are soaking up more than 90 per cent of early production.
The entry-level WT (work truck) – the most affordable local Silverado at $114,990 – and next-up LTZ at $134,990 are also in production, although at small numbers in the start-up phase.
The flagship heavy-duty 3500HD LTZ with its dual rear wheels is set to go into production next month (see separate story).
According to HSV marketing manager Damon Paull, the company hopes to turn out up to 1000 Silverados in a full year.
“We are tracking towards that,” he said, adding that HSV was letting its dealers set the model mix build plan with their orders.
Mr Paull conceded that HSV might consider more variants, but not before the company and its dealers had bedded down the current range and had a better knowledge of the full-sized pick-up market in Australia.
HSV’s sister company Walkinshaw Automotive has spent millions of dollars re-engineering the Silverado for right-hand drive and setting up a production line in a new factory at Clayton South, a couple of kilometres away from its previous long-term home where it churned out classic sedans such as the ClubSport, GTS, Grange and – last of all – the thumping W1.
The Silverado line runs between two other RHD production lines – one for the Ram pick-up range built by Walkinshaw for Ateco Automotive – and another for the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro that is set to go into production in late August.
In a building next door, Holden Colorado SportsCat utes are being pimped for sale across the entire Holden network.
For Silverado, only one powertrain is on offer, General Motors’ thumping 6.6-litre Duramax turbo-diesel V8 churning out 332kW of power and – wait for it – 1234Nm of torque.
This is hooked up to a heavy-duty six-speed Allison automatic transmission and an electrically operated transfer case feeding either the rear wheels via a rear locking differential or – courtesy of a knob on the dash – all four wheels.
HSV program manager for Silverado, and former Holden engineer, Gareth Brown told GoAuto that HSV’s design and engineering team were able to work from Chevrolet’s original CAD (computer-aided design) drawings thanks to the company’s strong links with GM.
He said the entire engineering focus was on “moving the steering wheel from the left to the right” on the Detroit-built truck range.
Mr Brown said suspension, powertrain and other areas that HSV might previously had modified were left untouched because “when it comes to these trucks, the Americans know what they are doing”.
The biggest challenges revolved around reconfiguring the dash and finding a path through the crowded engine bay for the steering column.
Suppliers who once made a living from the Australian car industry helped to come up with revised parts to suit the new design. These include a new iron casting for the RHD steering box, a new high-quality dashboard cover and a fresh HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) set-up so that the latter could switch sides under the dash.
Steel stampings for new openings in the firewall to accommodate the steering, pedals and plumbing are also supplied locally, while many parts such as wiring harnesses are modified to RHD use.
According to Mr Brown, the whole emphasis has been on ensuring everything works as if the truck had been originally designed in RHD, right down to revising the cabin headliner to move the Bluetooth microphone from left to right.
Some modifications were forced by Australian Design Rules (ADRs). These included different seat belts and taillight lenses, again provided by local suppliers happy to have fresh business.
At 6085mm long, 2388mm wide and 1985mm tall, the Silverado can carry a payload of between 875kg (LTZ) and 975kg (WT).
The main appeal of the big truck will be for towing, with the 2500HD capable of towing 750kg unbraked, 3500kg braked with a 50mm ball, 4500kg braked with a bigger 70mm ball and a hulking 5890kg with a tray mounted pintle hitch.
The 3500HD will tow even more once it comes on stream.
Wheels range from 18-inch steel items on the WT to 20-inch polished alloys on the LTZ, with the off-road oriented Midnight Edition getting 18-inch alloys with chunky off-road Goodyear tyres.
Apart from the WT, all Silverados get Chevrolet’s Z71 off-road pack that includes twin-tube gas dampers and under-body protection, among other things.
The 2500HD WT has a front bench seat that can seat three or, with the middle section folded down, two in comfort.
The upmarket variants – all of which are based on the LTZ – have two front seats with a massive console providing large storage bins and a wireless phone charger.
A three-person rear seat has fold-up squabs that reveal a cabin-wide storage bin suitable for wet items.
Standard equipment on the volume-selling models includes heated and cooled perforated leather front seats with 10-way adjustment, heated leather-clad steering wheel, power adjustable foot pedals, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, remote central locking, seven-speaker Bose audio system, parking sensors, 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system and a universal garage opener.
The WT misses out on some of these luxuries, settling for vinyl seats single-zone air-conditioning and 7.0-inch infotainment screen, among other things.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado pricing*

2500HD WT (a) $114,990
2500HD LTZ (a) $134,990
2500HD LTZ Midnight Edition (a) $139,990
2500HD LTZ Custom Sport Edition (a) $139,990
3500HD LTZ (a) $147,990

*Excludes on-road costs

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