U.S. government gives GM $36.4 million to develop 10 heavy-duty Suburbans

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General Motors Defense has secured a lucrative contract to provide the United States Department of State with 10 examples of a purpose-designed heavy-duty Chevrolet Suburban. The initial deal is worth $36.4 million.

Full details about the truck weren't released, partly because it's still at the embryonic stage of development and partly due to the sensitive nature of the project, but General Motors Defense described it as a heavy-duty Suburban built largely with off-the-shelf components. Chevrolet no longer offers a heavy-duty Suburban, though it has in the past, so reading between the lines suggests the SUV will be related to the Silverado HD under the sheet metal.

General Motors Defense explained it will design a new body-on-frame chassis and a new suspension system to help the Suburban cope with the rigors of government service. The model will consequently offer a higher payload capacity and additional ground clearance, features that have characterized the Suburban HD in the past. Most of the body, exterior panels, drivetrain, interior and brakes will come from the Chevrolet parts bin; a sketch released by General Motors defense notably shows eight-hole wheels also found on the Silverado HD.

Body armor will enter the equation as well. "Pursuant to customer requirement, the heavy-duty Suburban will be equipped with an appropriate level of armor for the protection mission," Autoblog learned from a spokesperson.

When all is said and done, General Motors will send the Department of State a bill for $36.4 million, which evens out to $3.64 million per Suburban. That figure includes research, development and testing, among other things.

"Beyond the cost of each vehicle, design, tooling, government testing, development, and validation are also factored into the contract value," the spokesperson told us, adding that the final cost of each SUV can't be made public.

For context, Chevrolet charges $52,300 for a 2021 Suburban. Deliveries are scheduled to start in the spring of 2022, and building the 10 trucks will take about two years. If all goes to plan, the Department of State will award General Motors Defense a second contract to build 200 heavy-duty Suburbans annually for nine years starting in 2023, so the final examples will be delivered two years after 50% of new cars sold are supposed to be electric.

Officially called a Large Support Utility Commercial Vehicle, the Suburban is being developed for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), which is the federal law enforcement and security arm of the Department of State. DSS agents notably protect American embassies around the world, transport classified and sensitive material, and keep dozens of foreign ministers and other diplomats safe at the annual United Nations General Assembly held in New York City. As of writing, it doesn't sound like Chevrolet will make the heavy-duty Suburban available to the public.

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