GMC Denali Takes Deadly Design to New Heights

Why are pickup trucks so deadly? Just look at that front end.

GMC Denali front end


Treehugger has been complaining about the design of pickup trucks for years. We have noted research that shows it is "disproportionately likely to kill." As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) noted, it's mostly because of that big flat billboard of a front end.

The IIHS states in a report:

"The elevated injury risk associated with LTVs [Light Truck Vehicles] seems to stem from their higher leading edge, which tends to impart greater injury to the middle and upper body (including the thorax and abdomen) than cars, which instead tend to cause injury to the lower extremities."

So when the 2022 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate was announced, I had to stand up and take notice— although being short, even standing up I probably cannot see over the hood. This $80,000 working man's pickup truck is described by GMC as "the most advanced and luxuriously appointed Denali model ever, as well as the most advanced and luxurious pickup in its class."

I was particularly worked up about its interior distractions.

Denali Interior


GMC states:

"The new, larger 13.4-inch-diagonal color touchscreen is complemented with a new 12.3-inch-diagonal configurable digital instrument cluster and 15-inch-diagonal multicolour head-up display, offered on AT4, AT4x, Denali and Denali Ultimate, to provide more than 40 diagonal inches of digital display, the most available in its class."

Of course, I put this up on Twitter, and the response was astonishing: There were more comments and retweets than I have ever had, with some very interesting responses. It certainly seems that I am not alone in my dislike and even fear of these trucks.

Alex twee


Now first of all, as architectural critic Alex Bozikovic notes, some people need pickup trucks and use them for real work.

Nick nobody uses this for work

But others point out the bed is too high to comfortably lift stuff up and the bed isn't actually very big or very useful.

GMC truck being used


GMC is careful to include a photo of a truck with stuff in it, but really, is anyone going to leave all that stuff loose in a truck?

use a van

Many also noted that a lockable vehicle like a Ford Transit or Sprinter van makes a lot more sense for construction than something like this, but they do not have the dramatic high front end.

bothersome to have someone on your hood

The reason Ford Transits have a low front end is to comply with the European safety standards for cars, which are designed so that when a person is hit they roll onto the hood and there is not enough room to go under the bumper. This Twitter user may have a point about the utility of this design:

keep your family safe

Many people buy these large vehicles because they believe that by being higher they can see farther and they are wrapping themselves in more steel and are safer. It's actually true: the death rate for people inside vehicles is continuously dropping as they get bigger. But for everyone outside, pedestrians or cyclists or people in small cars, the opposite is true.

Another tweet pointed out the amazingly scary video.

playing pattycake


You actually see them clapping their hands while passing a very long lumber truck at high speed, Is this safe? Is this real?

Prison i is a bit much

I am not alone in wondering whether this kind of design should be legal.

This Twitter user suggested there is something Americans can actually do, and that's complaining and getting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to actually do something about truck design.

commercial licence required

Another suggested perhaps there should be a commercial license required, demonstrating the driver has the skills to operate a vehicle this large and powerful.


There are some people who need to be able to tow 10,000 pounds up snow-covered mountains in Colorado, as I hear every time I complain about pickup trucks. But these are all over cities now; there are three or four in my neighborhood.

Climate regulation

And of course, we haven't even mentioned the climate crisis, the 40 tons of upfront carbon emitted building the vehicle, and the fuel needed to run that giant 420 horsepower V8 engine that gets 14 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway. It is definitely time for some regulation.

electric trucks are just as bad

This is exactly what is happening. Vehicle size matters for all kinds of reasons: the space they take up, the rate at which they kill and maim, the embodied carbon of building them, none of these change with electrification.

couldn't see them

Giant pickup trucks are fundamentally dangerous by design. They shouldn't be on the road.