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The United States government just awarded General Motors a huge contract to develop armored cars. The $36.4 million contract will allow GM Defense to develop the necessary platforms and equipment to construct special Chevy Suburbans for use by U.S. diplomats and other important government officials. This sounds like a huge sum of money, but it isn’t representative of the per-vehicle cost of producing these Suburbans. What goes into $36.4 million worth of Chevrolet Suburbans? A whole lot.

An artist rendering of a dark Chevy Suburban with red and blue lights.
Rendering of a purpose-built Heavy-Duty (HD) Suburban | General Motors

GM Defense will make 10 Chevy Suburbans to start

Here’s the gist of the contract: GM Defense is going to make 10 Chevrolet Suburbans specially designed for the kind of high-profile officials that will be riding in them. These include U.S. diplomats and other high-profile government officials. They will be the Heavy-Duty (HD) Suburbans. Each of these Chevy Suburbans will be designed with safety and performance in mind. If the United States government likes the first 10 Chevy Suburbans they get, they’re going to order 200 a year for the next nine years. That’s a whole lot of armored Suburbans. 

The first ten Chevy Suburbans will be delivered in spring of 2022. The initial contract should run through May of 2023. If all goes well, production of the 200 Suburbans per year for nine years would begin after that. 

GM Defense will use some off-the-shelf parts

GM is going to use a body-on-frame construction to meet the government vehicle performance requirements. This is in part because these Chevy Suburbans will need to have a higher payload capacity as well as a heavier vehicle weight. The Chevrolet Suburbans will also be made with fixtureless assembly to create high-quality SUVs.

In addition, GM Defense will use some off-the-shelf parts. These include the body, propulsion, interior and exterior, as well as brakes. 

There aren’t many details about what kinds of additional features the government Suburbans will have. There also aren’t many specifics about the Chevy Suburban construction. This is likely due to the nature of the types of SUVs being produced. Keeping the details secret keeps the people inside of them safer. 

What is GM Defense?

GM Defense is a subsidiary of General Motors. As the name suggests, GM Defense makes vehicles for “global defense, security and government markets.” They create vehicles and other solutions for the government and Department of Defense.

Steve duMont, president of GM Defense, is excited about the Chevy Suburban contract. He says, “The Chevrolet Suburban has been an iconic name in commercial transportation since 1935. Our development contract win speaks to our long-standing legacy of exceeding transportation capabilities and our new, HD Suburban will deliver government-specific advanced mobility solutions to meet the needs of DSS.”

Although the total cost of the GM Defense contract is $36.4 million, it isn’t as though each of the ten Chevy Suburbans will cost $3.6 million. Rather, GM Defense will use the initial investment to develop the processes necessary to build multiple Suburbans efficiently and cost effectively. The cost per Chevy Suburban will almost certainly be much, much lower than the original cost suggests.

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