As part of the launch of the new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD, General Motors invited a bunch of journalists on a tour of the Flint Truck Assembly plant where the new Silverado HD and its GMC Sierra twin are being built. I took a bunch of notes and pictures (where allowed) — so here’s a photographic account of the tour.
It’s probably worth noting that the plant was conducting dry runs when our tours took place. I’m not sure if this was pure coincidence or not — I’m inclined to think it wasn’t — but nonetheless, there’s the explanation as to why the trucks themselves are absent from most of these photos.
Flint Assembly was built in 1947. Over the years the plant has been responsible for putting out early first-generation Chevrolet Corvettes, the K5 Blazer and the Suburban, full-size vans, the medium-duty TopKick and Kodiak trucks, light-duty trucks and now the Heavy Duty Sierra and Silverado. The whole plant employs three thousand people and runs three shifts per day, six days per week.
The first stop on our tour was at the area where the sunroof frames are made. These pieces will find their way into both the heavy-duty and the light-duty trucks, which are built in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You can see sunroof frames sitting on the green carts in the foreground.
This area is where the front doors for double cab and crew cab models are made. Directly across from it was the hinge shop area, which attaches hinges for the trucks’ doors and hood to the body at the rate of 62 trucks per hour.
This thing is called the Scanbox and is used to determine the quality of metal work. As you can see, it was evaluating a passenger side front door when my tour group passed through.
Body parts are delivered to the body shop on these automated carts from the nearby Flint Metal Center. The carts follow three routes, the longest of which covers eight-tenths of a mile. 110 different part numbers are transported between the two shops this way at a rate of 22 loads per hour. There are 19 tuggers in total, each of which pulls two trailers.
At the end of the body shop tour, we passed by these racks of tailgates. As a truck body goes through assembly, the tailgates are temporarily fixed to the bed in an upside down position, which helps during the painting process. I thought these images were particularly interesting as you can see all three tailgate styles. In the top image is a basic GMC tailgate. In the foreground of the bottom image is the Chevrolet tailgate, while in the background is a rack of GMC MultiPro tailgates.
The tour then moved over to the paint shop. One of the earlier steps in the paint process is the application of a base layer and an underbody anti-corrosion coat.
From there, the trucks eventually move on to the actual paint area. The plant uses a water-based paint applied with a rotating head for better coverage and consistency. This area can switch between colors from truck to truck without risking overspray.
One of the last steps of the painting process is quality verification. This job is done by independent auditors who do not work for the paint shop, in order to ensure impartiality.
Based on the tag hanging in the windshield (it’s there, just trust me), paint imperfections had been identified in the truck above — a brand-new 2020 Silverado HD — and it was being re-routed back through the plant to have them corrected. It’s also worth noting that both 2020 and 2019 model year Silverados are still in production, hence the reason you see both in the images above
Once the paint job is deemed acceptable, the truck is moved to the nearby General Motors Flint Assembly plant to have all of the non-body panel components installed.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.