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Designing The New Sierra HD Is An American Dream For A Bombay Native

2020 GMC Sierra HD Original Design Sketch

Karan Moorjani is a 31-year-old man from Bombay, India. He was 28 when the sketch got picked to use for the 2020 GMC Sierra HD pickup truck – the biggest and most capable Sierra HD yet. For some, getting the chance to design something like an exotic hypercar is the goal. But for the young-gun Indian designer, designing a massive pickup truck is an American dream come true.

“I have vivid memories… there’s no car culture in India, but there’s a few affluent collectors in Bombay, and I remember seeing like an early 90s GMC Sierra… I remember thinking that this was the most powerful looking vehicle that I’ve seen,” Moorjani told MC&T.

“Seeing one in Bombay, where everything is half its size, it really stands out.”

Despite not having access to them as a boy, Moorjani was obsessed with American automobiles, especially massive full sized trucks and powerful muscle cars. And it wasn’t long after Moorjani graduated from the ArtCenter School of Transportation Design in California that he was hired by General Motors, and was walked into the GMC design studio.

“In my first week I got assigned to the 2020 Sierra Heavy Duty… and my design made it to the end of the selection… that’s the same reaction I want them to have when they see my truck. The emotion of witnessing something so powerful.”

Karan Moorjani next to a 2020 GMC Sierra HD AT4.

‘Powerful’ and references to powerful things was a theme that the GMC exterior designer referenced multiple times to describe the exterior direction for the 2020 GMC Sierra HD.

“I remember wanting it to make it feel very locomotive… my first week in Detroit I was driving through downtown and seeing the fist of Joe Louis, and remember thinking that’s what this truck should look like – a massive fist moving through the air.”

It’s not everywhere in the world there’s a giant statue of a fist, but go figure that the place which does is where some of the world’s boldest automotive designs big and small have emerged over the years. But it wasn’t just the famous 24-foot sculpture at the base of Woodward Avenue that inspired Moorjani and the design team.

2020 GMC Sierra HD Denali

“I already had an idea of what I wanted to convey. A lot of inspirations were locomotives, really high-end and futuristic military equipment, NASA, and really high-tech objects. GMC is all about technical precision and detail… we’re also very inspired by product design. We have images for days and days all over the design studio walls mixed in with our sketches,” said Moorjani.

For the 31-year-old, getting the ideas to paper was the easiest part.

The hardest? Raising the bar for GMC design in his eyes.

“It had to live up to the high expectations that need to be met… each generation has to be better than the previous, and I think the previous generation is amazing, so that was pretty challenging. And also because it was my first project and my first full size vehicle in design… to be able to translate the sketch to a full size clay model and keep the spirit of it, that’s extremely difficult… the sketching part is very easy because it’s just a raw expression,” he explained.

2020 GMC Sierra HD AT4

Getting the proportions right was the next step.

“There’s something about the scale of a heavy duty truck. When you put a design theme on that scale, you have to keep it looking big. I think it’s quite easy to get caught up in nonsensical styling and kind of lose the point. But if you look at the GMC Sierra HD, it’s very purposeful. If you look at the body, it’s like the barrel of a gun, it’s got a very strong section through the doors, and powerful fenders… it does justice to that scale.”

Comparatively, Moorjani says that designing a sports car like a C8 Corvette requires a different approach.

“A sports car sometimes can get over-stylized, and that’s okay, it works. But a big pickup truck has to be a bit serious. It’s all business… if you look at all the details… they’re functional items. Everything on the front end is functional. There’s no nonsensical styling,” said the truck designer.

The no-nonsense approach also saw a couple of design breakthroughs.

“We’ve got all the elements from the original sketch. Like the turn signals in the grille surround – that’s the first on any truck – we celebrated unique design elements like that. It was a huge engineering issue, but they figured it out and they nailed it. The side markers and the wheel moldings give it a big rig feel… everything I sketched is in there,” Moorjani said.

While the little details are worth noting, Moorjani still made it a priority to make sure that the new Sierra HD looked as imposing as physically possible.

“The front end was always the focal point. The rest of the truck is supporting what the rest of the truck is communicating… we spent a lot of time making sure that when you stand in front of this thing it looks like it’s going to come get you. It’s got that pissed-off feel, but not in a boyish way, still looking mature. It just had to have that imposing look,” explained the GM designer.

From all the various body styles, from a base 2020 Sierra 2500 HD that starts at over $37,000, to the range-topping 2020 Sierra 3500 HD Denali dually that comes in around $70,000, Moorjani is still able to narrow down his personal truck of choice.

“If you’ve seen the 2020 GMC Sierra HD AT4… that would be currently my dream truck. And if I got that I would then get the GMC Accessory gloss black wheels, a bigger tire package, and have it stanced-out a little bit. I would try to make it look almost exactly like the sketch… all of the exaggerated elements… there’s something really mean and violent about an all-black truck. It’s very animalistic and has a lot of expression.”

Written by Manoli Katakis

Detroit Region SCCA Member and founder of MC&T. Automotive Media Jedi Knight. Not yet the rank of Master.


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    • Oh look, somebody with Truck Derangement Syndrome. Somebody with the last name “Hung” really shouldn’t be talking about compensating for things. It’s too on the nose.

  1. The front is the definition of nonsensical styling. You have to have a forward facing camera to see the road. This shouldn’t be street legal.

      • Actually you can’t see pedestrians under a certain height (like 5’8” close enough to the vehicle). Man, you can’t even see certain low-to-the-ground cars if they’re right in front of you. Trucks have doubled in size over the last few decades and it’s dangerous. It’s the reason pedestrian fatalities are at their highest level since 1990. They don’t belong on city and suburban streets.

          • Vehicles of this size can be just as dangerous in the suburbs where there’s less traffic calming. Wider roads cause drivers to go faster, and if a pedestrian gets hit with a truck like this they won’t fall over the hood, but under the wheels. There is some good design on these new GMC trucks (multifunctional tailgate) but overall they seem to be getting bigger and more dangerous for aesthetic reasons, a problem which may get worse if heavy electric trucks gain popularity. (the new EV F-150 weights 6,500lbs and can accelerate to deadly speed in under 4 seconds, not to mention the new Hummer E

          • Are you an expert in trucks? Are the curated articles giving you these curated talking points written by those who are truck experts? Is there a framework to which you can categorize vehicle acceleration as “deadly”? Are you for electric vehicles? Do you understand that electric trucks need to be large to store enough batteries to make them comparably as useful as an ICE truck?

          • What makes someone a truck expert? Are the observations of urban planners, traffic safety experts, the NHTSA, and other road users invalid? The AAA foundation has shown that a collision at 58mph carries a 90% risk of death or 70% at 50mph. I believe in access to more affordable, safer, and healthier forms of transport than cars where possible alongside implementing EVs. Of course heavy batteries are needed to have enough power, but road designs in the US are inherently unsafe, traffic fatalities are high, and designing vehicles to be “imposing” and “mean and violent” seems like a misstep

          • Do urban planners, NHTSA, “safety experts” and non-truck drivers speak for truck drivers, why somebody would own a large truck, or even take input from truck customers? In my 10+ years in covering trucks and other vehicles, I can confidently tell you they do not. Did the AAA study factor in collisions on small vs large vehicles, old v new vehicles, or vehicle class/body style, and the myriad combination of situations? Are they able to simulate real world crashes in labs, or do they just run on a narrowed data set? Can a “healthier” form of transport haul all of the cargo and tow all of the weight that a truck can? Are road designs in the US inherently unsafe, or are motorists poorly educated in using them? Are traffic fatalities high for the same reasons? Is taking things out of context from my interview the right thing to do here, or did you consider the truck was also designed to look “locomotive” and “mature,” or that the designer may have used creative metaphors in expressing a design?

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