General Motors Co. GM +1.00% is accelerating efforts to field a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards and archrival Ford Motor Co. F +0.98% , according to people familiar with the matter.
The No. 1 U.S. auto maker recently locked-in supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. AA +0.26% and Novelis Inc., which are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the next-generation GM pickup, the people said. Aluminum sheet for automotive bodies is in such high demand that companies need to order it years in advance.
The push to develop what the industry calls an “aluminum intensive” large pickup marks an apparent change of direction for GM, which has pursued smaller and lighter weight steel-bodied trucks.
Before Ford’s debut last month of its 2015 F-150, with a body made almost entirely of aluminum, GM executives questioned whether such a vehicle could be cost competitive or appealing to U.S. customers.