Commentary: The New Diesel Pickup World Order

2013 Ram 1500 for sale
Photo by Randy Stern

V&R has grown another Contributing Writer for the site. William Maley has already contributed to V&R and you will see more of his perspective from Southeastern Michigan (i.e. "The Detroit Area") going forward. Some of his features will be called "Detroit Diaries" giving a perspective to the culture of Southeastern Michigan as shaped by its primary industry – the Automobile.

Please welcome the Cheers & Gears/Motorama LIVE/Hooniverse staffer/contributor in his first official V&R article – a Commentary about some news that was made this past week from his own backyard…

A gauntlet has been thrown down.

No, I am not referring to the whole Tesla and The New York Times mess concerning the Model S and whether the story was fake or not. That has been talked to death as it is.

What I am talking about is the news that Ram trucks will be introducing a diesel into Ram 1500 pickup. Announced last Thursday, the Ram 1500 would come with the option of a 3.0litre diesel V6 that will also see duty in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Ram is keeping quiet on power details, though everyone is thinking that it will likely have the same or more power as the Grand Cherokee: 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

So why? Why is Ram going to offer a diesel engine in a "half-ton" light-duty pickup? Very simple. They want to one up the competition.

The full-size truck marketplace can be best described as a battleground where winning gets you the spotlight. Ford proved this very well when they introduced a new range of engines for the F-Series back in 2011. There was two new V8s and base V6 engine, but the star was the brand new 3.5litre EcoBoost V6. Using direct-injection and twin-turbos, the engine produces 360 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The new engine also brought forth impressive fuel economy and towing numbers for the class. This is one of the key items that helped the F-150 and for that matter, the F-Series lineup run away from the truck pack.

Ram has been trying to claw some of that attention back since then. Last year, Ram pulled out a number of tricks which ranged from the Pentastar 3.6litre V6 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, air suspension, and other items to steal back some of the light. But that only combats one part of Ford's powertrain lineup. What is needed is a engine that has some technology or unique selling point like the 3.5litre EcoBoost V6. That is where the VM Motori-built 3.0litre diesel V6 comes in. If Chrysler can make the 3.0litre diesel V6 match or exceed the fuel economy payload, and towing numbers for the EcoBoost V6, then Ram has full control of the spotlight.

There of course are questions about this decision. For one, will the diesel sell? Some people seem to say yes. Others think it will not, believing that it will become a unicorn of sorts. For me, I sit in the middle. I think Ram has a very good opportunity with diesel option if they can do a good job of marketing it and giving it a good price. Also, truck buyers are a bit more open to diesel engines since they offer the muscle and tow numbers people want. Whether this pans out for a light-duty truck remains to be seen.

The other question being asked if anyone else would offer a diesel engine in their light-duty pickup. Stephen Elmer at AutoGuide asked Ford, General Motors, and Toyota asked this very question. All three said the same thing, no plans at this time. Whether we see any changes in their plans, only time and sales numbers will answer this.

Ram has thrown the gauntlet down on the competition with the introduction of a new diesel engine for the Ram 1500. Now it is time to watch to see if any automaker takes the challenge.

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