INTERVIEW WITH JON MOSS
Jon Moss, the Manager of General Motor's Specialty Vehicle Group, has probably the most enviable job at GM. The Specialty Vehicle Group was created as a kind of 'skunk works' independent of GM's main engineering organization. A team of designers and engineers directed by Moss handle the engineering and manufacture of some of the fastest vehicles on Earth without distracting production programs. Jon has helped GM deliver dozens of high performance dream cars and showcars, such as this year's Silverado SS and Coolside II concepts.
Jon Moss did not come by his job easily. He has been with GM for about 35 years. Moss began his career with Chevrolet as a layout designer in their Engineering Center in 1966 and worked his way up the career ladder to his current position.
We jumped at the opportunity to interview Jon Moss during this year's 35th Annual SEMA show to get his views on upcoming truck products from GM's Special Vehicle Group.
PickupTruck.com: Let's start with the Silverado SS, is that going to return as a production truck?
Jon Moss: Well, it's looking a lot more favorable that it did. We are currently looking at a variety of powertrains for that vehicle and I would say stay tuned in the next year and half for some pretty good announcements. That's about all I am going to say on that for now, but yes, engineering and powertrain are working very diligently on a package.
Kurt Ritter (Chevrolet's General Manager) talked to the dealers last night and told them (referring to the 2000 Silverado SS Concept) what we are looking at doing when we bring out the (production version) SS is that we are going to be a little different because we will probably be using the extended cab versus the standard cab, like the gold SS was.
editor's note: Chevrolet displayed a gold colored Silverado SS Concept during the 1998 SEMA using a standard cab configuration, which is what Moss is referring to above.
PUTC: By going with an extended cab, do you think the pure performance image of the SS will suffer rather than using a standard cab configuration like the Ford Lightning?
JM: Well, that's the controversy right now because, yes, the extended cab naturally is a little heavier and that's why powertrain is working very diligently to get a powerplant that will give the performance required for that kind of vehicle. Like Kurt said last night, it will be the fastest and best performing extended cab on the market.
PUTC: Do you think you will use a big block engine in the next SS?
JM: No, it will be a small block. Probably a 6.0-liter.
PUTC: Why wasn't the original Silverado SS put into production?
JM: Well it was two things. Do we just duplicate what Ford has done? The answer is yes we could but one of things (GM) is looking at is how attractive the vehicle is to the marketplace. Where I think we can have a serious advantage is by using the all wheel drive systems so you get the maximum use of (engine) power. Don't forget one of the trucks we did build as more of a concept, the Coolside I, had an all wheel drive system in it and the launch on that thing, because you are getting all the power to the ground, is just phenomenal. The acceleration received - 0 to 70, 80mph - is just awesome because there is no slippage, there no tire spinning.
Some people like the rear wheel drive you know, lighting them up. But if you are looking at pure performance and getting maximum usage out of the engine the all wheel drive system is the way to go.
So what we are looking at is the combination of all wheel drive and the right engine performance versus the weight of the vehicle to make that whole match.
PUTC: What was the reason for the ten year gap in all wheel drive, high performance vehicles, like the Syclone, so that today we see their return in trucks like the Sierra C3?
JM: Well, its a couple of things. I look at what we are doing with all wheel drive. Before, four wheel drive was basically manual shift and then it got to shift on the fly and electric shift and all kind of different innovations.
When you look overall at all wheel drive (GM engineers) found out how to eliminate the losses that hurt fuel economy so that the systems and technology are just simply more advanced and so what you have got are better engineered and developed systems with new technology that make it possible.
Its just the development and engineering to come up with the systems that we have today.
PUTC: You seem to be in favor of not supercharging trucks, like what Ford, Nissan and Toyota are doing. Is there a reason for this?
JM: Well, I think that you are going to start seeing more superchargers.
One of the things that has happened, and you see it looking around the show here, is engines are getting smaller, displacements are getting smaller and federal emission standards are getting more stringent so, in order to get the power and performance people want (superchargers are gaining more popularity in the marketplace).
I think that you can do it with naturally aspirated (engines) but you have to increase the compression ratios, burn premium fuel and on and on and on. You can get the same results by putting a small supercharger on it. Get that low-end in performance. Keep your emissions intact and its such a more simplistic operation.
Will Chevrolet and (the rest of GM) start looking at superchargers? We are already starting to look at them on the small cars, supercharged kits. In fact you have a couple on the floor today - L850s and LD9s.
We are already starting to look at it in the trucks also. GMC was the first to start it with some of the Magnusson blowers and they have done a couple with 5.3 and 6.0 liter blocks. We have a few projects underway for 01.
Come this time next year you are probably going to see Chevrolet and GMC with superchargers on trucks.
PUTC: How do you think increased prices for fuel are going to impact the performance market?
JM: Well, I'm not the one to answer that. Its my own personal speculation. Right now its $1.70 (per gallon of gasoline) on average and so far it doesn't seem to have hurt because the fuel economy we are reaching in all of the vehicles is much better. You aren't getting 10, 11, 12mpg, you are getting 20, 25, in the smaller vehicles 30mpg. So, yes, fuel costs are going up but I haven't seen a slow down in the economy. If it gets up to 2.75, 3.0 per gallon I am sure it would have an impact but right now the way it is I have not seen a noticeable change.
PUTC: How closely do you work with the brand teams on these trucks?
JM: We work totally with the brand teams. We meet with the brand teams. All projects are brand team driven. They give us the projects and we go back and forth with them as far as setting the parameters.
The brand teams come up with the initial idea and maybe they cant fill in all the squares and boxes - we help them do that. They have the vision and we help them complete that vision. Everything is directed and approved by the brand teams. They are our customers.
PUTC: Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us.