Diesels for all

March 1, 2008
While diesel power has long dominated the Class 3-5 heavy pickup and cab-chassis markets, all five auto manufacturers that compete in the full-size pickup market now plan to add light-duty diesel options for their trucks in the lower GVW ratings. The rush to push diesels down into the heart of the pickup market is being driven by growing public appreciation for the gasoline-alternative's fuel economy,

While diesel power has long dominated the Class 3-5 heavy pickup and cab-chassis markets, all five auto manufacturers that compete in the full-size pickup market now plan to add light-duty diesel options for their trucks in the lower GVW ratings.

The rush to push diesels down into the heart of the pickup market is being driven by growing public appreciation for the gasoline-alternative's fuel economy, power, clean emissions and durability, as well as diesel's long-standing “tough truck” image. New federal fuel economy standards that will now extend to any vehicle under 10,000 lbs. GVW also argue in favor of greater diesel availability for the largest single vehicle segment in the U.S.

Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan have all said that by the 2010 model year their under-10,000-lbs. GVW full-size pickups will have newly developed diesel options. With the same engines also finding their way into full-size SUVs, diesel engines could account for 10% of all light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2010 and 15% by 2015, according to some projections.

Two months ago, Ford released limited details on its new light-duty diesel at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit when it unveiled the new generation of its F-150 pickup. While the new F-150 goes on sale as a 2009 model, the diesel isn't scheduled to make the option list until the following model year.

Reports in WardsAuto.com say the new engine will be based on a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V8 diesel currently used in European Land Rover SUVs. It will feature a compacted graphite iron (CGI) block to handle high output and will produce 330 hp. and 515 lb.-ft. peak torque. By comparison, the 6.4L PowerStrokeV8 diesel built by International for Ford's Super Duty models is rated 350 hp. with a peak torque of 650 lb.-ft. The smaller diesel will be built at Ford's Chichuahua, Mexico, engine plant.

GM is working on the same timetable to deliver its own V8 turbodiesel for the 2010 Sierra/Silverado. It will be a 4.5L V8 turbodiesel and carry the Duramax name, linking it to the Isuzu-designed 6.6L Duramax diesel offered in its over-10,000-lbs. trucks. The new diesel will produce more than 310 hp. and 520 lb.-ft. of torque, according to WardsAuto.com reports, and will use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) aftertreatment to meet 2010 emissions requirements. Like the Ford powerplant, it will use a CGI block and high-pressure common-rail fuel injection.

Chrysler is turning to its long-term diesel partner Cummins for a new light-duty turbodiesel for the lower GVW models of the new Dodge Ram pickup. Introduced at the Detroit auto show, the redesigned Ram will add the option in 2009, according to the company. No details beyond the Cummins badge have been released yet.

The two newest entrants into the full-size pickup market — Toyota and Nissan — don't intend to be left behind in the diesel race, with both publicly committed to adding diesel engine options.

In January, Toyota announced at the Detroit auto show that it intends to bring V8 diesel power to its Tundra pickup by 2010. While it offered no technical details, the company has many options, as it already builds a wide range of light-duty diesels in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Later that month, Nissan officials told WardsAuto.com that they, too, are preparing a new diesel engine for the next generation of the Titan pickup, which is due next year. Although there had been reports that Nissan was working with International to develop a light-duty diesel, company officials declined to confirm those reports.

No matter what the motivation for the sudden interest in diesel power by manufacturers, many commercial users of full-size pickups have long complained about the lack of diesel engines for their trucks and should welcome the more efficient engine options.

About the Author

Jim Mele

Nationally recognized journalist, author and editor, Jim Mele joined Fleet Owner in 1986 with over a dozen years’ experience covering transportation as a newspaper reporter and magazine staff writer. Fleet Owner Magazine has won over 45 national editorial awards since his appointment as editor-in-chief in 1999.

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