Finally, New Ventures In Diesel Market…
In 2013, a handful of automobile manufacturers have decided to step out on a limb and are taking the plunge into the light duty diesel market. The most exciting news thus far is that of the Ram 1500 lineup to be featuring a 3.0 liter turbo diesel V-6 built by Italy’s VM Motori, the same diesel supplier to Chrysler since 1992. For those that are familiar to new and upcoming offerings, this engine may ring a bell, because it is the diesel engine slated to be offered in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, starting in May of 2013. The powers that be aren’t releasing any numbers just yet for the Ram 1500 application, but if it’s anything like what’s been released for the Jeep, horsepower is to be rated at 240 horsepower and 420 foot pounds of torque. The news of this could likely change the buying habits of many three-quarter and one ton owners that merely buy the truck for the diesel, but really don’t need the hauling capacity, and wouldn’t mind the smoother ride characteristic of a half ton.
For years, the general population has been asking for the expansion of efficient, light duty diesels in the car and half ton pickup market. Several manufacturers, such as Volkswagen have ruled the market in the diesel car segment, leaving most of the others, including U.S. built, with nothing to offer. On top of this, there has never been a half ton or lighter truck in the United States featuring a diesel. These scenarios are unfortunate, because if you travel to most other countries, light duty diesels are prolific in many applications. Most would blame the absence of these vehicles in the U.S. due to stringent and ever-changing emissions regulations that would force the manufacturers to redesign the powertrain every several years on a line that may or may not be a top seller.
Chrysler’s move is unexpected. Industry buzz has been that Toyota or Nissan would be first with a standard-duty diesel pickup because those makers see advantages to diesels but have no heavy-duty pickups. Toyota showed its 2014 redo of the Tundra truck at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this month and no diesel is in the lineup. Nissan’s overhauled Titan might, indeed, offer a diesel, but it’s not due until next year at the earliest.
Ford Motor and General Motors have not disclosed any plans for half-ton diesel pickups. GM, alone among Detroit makers, plans to continue selling compact pickups for mileage-conscious and size-sensitive truck buyers. But it will be no surprise if other pickup makers eventually put diesels into their half-ton models, to ratchet up their mileage as federal regulations for fuel economy get tighter. Cars and trucks have to hit 54.5 mpg in federal tests in 2025, which translates to about 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving on the vehicle’s window sticker.
Chrysler hadn’t planned to announce the diesel Ram for several months, but its hand was forced by a Jan. 24 memo to workers at its Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan citing a “new diesel engine launch in July 2013.” Chrysler’s diesel supplier, VM, is half-owned by Fiat, which controls Chrysler, and half-owned by GM, which could make it also a potential source of diesels for GM’s half-ton Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. It will be interesting to see how this will pan out during 2013.