General Motors Corp. spent significantly less money in retooling plants to produce its new-generation fullsize pickups by putting more time into computer-aided modeling.

Gary White, vehicle line executive-fullsize trucks, declines to estimate the total investment at the five plants sharing production of the light-duty '07 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. But he says GM kept costs at bay in the handoff from the GMT800 platform to the new GMT900.

“It's substantially less than on the 800s, I can tell you that,” he says. “That's a symbol of how far we've come.”

The new GMT900 platform, which also underpins the '07 GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and Avalanche, is the result of five years of development that included a complete frame and suspension redesign.

Engineers created 83 different computer-aided designs for the new trucks before producing the first prototype.

“We built about half the number of prototypes than in the 800 program,” White says.

The last of the GMT800 trucks rolled off the line in July, and plant retooling and worker retraining continued through late September. GM produced the first non-salable GMT900 Silverado July 19.

Crew-cab variants are expected to dominate the lineup. Job One, a crew cab Silverado, rolled off the line at the Oshawa, Ont., Canada, plant during the first week of October.

GM's Pontiac, MI, facility produces both regular and extended cabs of both light- and heavy-duty models. The Fort Wayne, IN, plant mainly will produce extended cabs, along with some regular cab models.

In Silao, Mexico, GM produces crew cabs, as well as the Cadillac Escalade EXT and Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado and Suburban. The Flint, MI, plant will assemble the heavy-duty models next year.