To develop and build the first 10 armored Chevrolet Suburban SUVs for diplomat and high-profile government official use, GM's Defense division was recently awarded a $36.4 million development contract.
Exactly how these SUVs will be different from the standard model isn't being made public, but they will use a unique body-on-frame chassis and suspension setup, while also using a lot of off-the-shelf parts, GM said.
If the State Department is happy with the first batch, it will likely place an order for 200 a year for nine years, for a total of 1800 units.
You can certainly option up a Chevrolet Suburban to a high sticker price, but whatever options and features you throw in, you won't be able to match what the U.S. Department of State is spending for 10 purpose-built heavy-duty Suburbans over the next two years. These aren't your standard SUVs, of course, but ones that use a unique body-on-frame chassis and suspension, among other security detail upgrades. Total value of the government development contract: $36.4 million, or $3.64 million per Suburban.
Full details of the heavy-duty Suburbans are not being talked about just yet, but GM (specifically, GM Defense LLC) will use some of the money to develop the new chassis and suspension system, which is required to "support increased government vehicle performance requirements with a higher payload capacity and greater ground vehicle weight." In other words, armor and security components for high-profile government representatives like diplomats.
"Our development contract win speaks to our longstanding legacy of exceeding transportation capabilities, and our new HD Suburban will deliver government-specific advanced mobility solutions to meet the needs of [the Diplomatic Security Service]," said GM Defense president Steve duMont in a statement.
Not everything in the feds' Suburbans will be created new. GM said it will use "significant" off-the-shelf parts in the HD Suburban, among them the body, exterior, propulsion, interior and brakes. That will leave more of the development money to be spent on fine-tuning the "advanced manufacturing tools and techniques, including fixtureless assembly and flexible fabrication" that GM said it will use to build these SUVs. GM said these techniques will help make building these kinds of low-volume products more efficient and reduce costs.
Keeping manufacturing costs down might not seem like a big deal when you're making just 10 vehicles with a budget of $36 million, but this is likely just the first of many modified Suburbans that the State Department will buy from GM. GM Defense said it will deliver this first batch of vehicles next spring. Then, when the development contract is completed around May 2023, the government is expected to put in an order for a fleet of 200 HD Suburbans each year for nine years. At a price significantly lower than $3 million each, we taxpayers hope.
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