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Diesel Trucks & SUV Future Predications & Other News - Diesel Basics

John J. DeCotis is a Profession Engineer based in Detroit, Michigan. He spent the last three decades with Ford Motor Company, but as an independent consultant for Diesel Power magazine, he attempts nothing short of predicting the future.

This month, we will continue the projections for diesel vehicle applications made last issue, expanding the discussion to include compact SUVs and pickup trucks sold in the U.S. Background for this article came from a worldwide look at what is currently offered in compact trucks and SUVs. We studied powertrains available from the major vehicle manufacturers with an eye to whether the diesels used in the different countries have potential for use in North America.

Predictions for this class of vehicles are a bit more difficult than the larger vehicles because there has been less information published about manufacturer's plans. The lack of information is probably due to uncertainty for the overall viability of diesel powertrains in the lower profit margin's vehicles. This vehicle segment has the best fuel economy for (gasoline) trucks and SUVs and justification for additional vehicle cost, due to the fact that a diesel powerplant becomes a difficult business decision.

A decision to add a diesel powerplant to a vehicle would be based on a "business case" study to assess whether the product change/enhancement will be a sound business proposition. The study would need to show profitability for the diesel option and its related content. Option pricing, projected sales volume, investment, and engineering costs are some of the factors considered. Ideally, the auto companies would want to use their own manufactured diesel engine to keep the engine/option cost down, but that decision requires sufficient engine volume to justify the engineering and manufacturing expenses for the engine program. Purchasing a diesel engine from an engine supplier brings a higher price but saves or reduces the investment and engineering time and costs. The compact class of trucks is especially sensitive to profitability. Pricing a diesel engine option to make a profit, yet keeping the package price low enough to make it attractive for customers to buy, is a formidable task.

Jeep has apparently made this work with the successful application of the 2.8L diesel in the Liberty. Jeep launched the vehicle with a modest price increase and has had sales "exceeding expectations," which implies it has been a profitable product. Success of this vehicle proves there is profitable market potential and should pave the way for other competitors in this segment.

DaimlerChrysler* DaimlerChrysler (DCX) has aggressive plans to introduce diesel-powered vehicles in North America.

* It introduced its Bluetec emission technology system in January 2006 and displayed a Jeep Grand Cherokee prototype with Bluetec.

* DaimlerChrysler plans to start production of the Mercedes-Benz M-class with this technology in the fall of 2006 with plans to expand Bluetec to other products.

DodgeCurrent ('06-'07 Model Year)* Dakota and Durango: There are no applications of diesel engines in Dakota pickup or Durango SUV.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* DakotaThe 2.8L VM engine would be a possible candidate for Dakota pickup.

The Dodge Sprinter has a 2.7L I-5 154hp at 3,800 rpm and 243 lb-ft torque at 1,600 rpm turbodiesel built by Mercedes-Benz, but this engine is not considered viable for the Dakota.

There has been no indication from Chrysler of plans for a Dakota diesel, and it is not projected there will be a diesel in this generation of the vehicle.

The Dakota platform will probably focus on hybrid gas/electric technology.

DurangoThe 2.8L from VM as used in Jeep Liberty would be a stretch for Durango because of vehicle mass. This size and weight of vehicle would need a 3.0L-3.5L engine to meet performance needs.

Application of the Mercedes-Benz Bluetec V-6 (3.0L-3.5L) is a reasonable assumption when it is decided to apply a diesel to Durango.

A diesel in this vehicle family is probable by the end of the decade ('09 model year).

Jeep Current ('06-'07 Model Year)* LibertyThe diesel engine is a 2.8L DOHC I-4 with common-rail injection, variable geometry turbocharger, and electronic controls, with the engine made in Italy by VM Motori.

This combination is available worldwide where the vehicle is known as Cherokee.

* Grand Cherokee/CommanderGrand Cherokee vehicles sold outside of the U.S. have a 3.0L DOHC V-6 diesel engine from Mercedes-Benz.

Jeep WranglerThe Wrangler is not available with a diesel in any of the worldwide markets. The only exception to this is the Egyptian military, which uses diesel-powered Wranglers.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* LibertyThe Liberty platform (Cherokee outside the U.S.) is available worldwide with 2.8L VM engine.

Refinement of the 2.8L in the near future is possible, and adaptation to Bluetec hardware is probable.

* Jeep Grand CherokeeA prototype with Bluetec technologies adapted to the Mercedes-Benz 3.0L DOHC V-6 was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2006. The engine had ratings of 211 hp and 399 lb-ft of torque.

Timing was not provided, but the vehicle appeared to be production ready, and this diesel application could be as early as the '07 model year and certainly by the '08 model year.

Expect to see same powertrain available in Commander when launched in Grand Cherokee.

* Gladiator compact pickupThe concept of this vehicle was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2005. The prototype included the 2.8L VM diesel engine.

A Gladiator pickup would be a very viable combination and innovative in compact truck segment.

Expect to see Gladiator with a diesel if and when it goes into production about the '09 model year.

* Jeep WranglerAs reported by DCX with the introduction of the '07 Wrangler

"Sold in key international markets throughout the world, the all-new '07 Jeep Wrangler is available with a diesel engine, as well as left- and righthand-drive models. Built at Chrysler Group's Stickney Avenue Toledo Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio, the '07 Jeep Wrangler will arrive in Jeep dealerships in the fall of 2006."

Details have not been yet revealed, but it is assumed the Wrangler will have the same diesel as the Liberty. The 2.8L DOHC I-4 from VM has 160 hp at 3,800 rpm and 294 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Ford Motor Company* Ford Motor Company has several diesel applications in compact-size vehicles marketed outside of the United States.

* No information has been published indicating the Ford compact truck/SUV platforms are slated for diesel.

* It is anticipated competitive pressures and consumer demand in this segment will lead Ford to offering diesels in both the Ranger and Explorer platforms when the vehicles are redesigned.

* New diesel engines within the 2.5L to 3.5L size are anticipated for the existing overseas market, as these products are redesigned by the end of the decade. Protection for the U.S. market and emission requirements should be part of the new engine design.

* Land Rover is poised to respond to U.S. diesel demands with its worldwide contemporary diesel engine.

Ford Current ('06-'07 model year)* Ranger: There are actually two different "Ranger" vehicles sold worldwide with diesel engines.

In South America, the Ranger is similar to the North American Ranger in architecture, but the vehicle is assembled in market with many locally sourced components. Two diesel engines are available from International of South America and both are designated as Power Stoke engines.

* The 2.8L is an OHV I-4 of older engine design and is turbocharged and intercooled. Performance specifications are: 132 hp at 3,800 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm.

* The higher-level option is an engine that was newly designed in South America. It's a 3.0L SOHC with four valves per cylinder that uses common-rail injection with Piezo injectors. Engine output is 163 hp at 3,800 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm.

The Ranger (Courier in some markets), sold in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, is derived from a Mazda-based compact truck platform and uses a Mazda-sourced diesel engine. The diesel is a 2.5L SOHC I-4 with turbo, intercooler, and electronic controls. Output is as much as 107 hp at 3,500 rpm and 196 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

* Explorer:There are no applications of a diesel engine in this vehicle platform.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* RangerThe Ranger platforms, both in the U.S. and in foreign markets, are long overdue for a redesign. Ranger in its present configuration will not get a diesel in the U.S.

The Ford compact truck platform has been reported to be scheduled for a major redesign by the end of the decade, probably the '10 model year. The new design has been rumored to be a worldwide truck.

Expect a new DOHC I-4 diesel engine of about 2.8L-3.0L displacement for Europe and Asia and design provision to satisfy U.S. requirements replacing the present Mazda diesel. This engine will be internally sourced (Ford of Europe, Mazda or both).

The South American market has high local content requirements, and vehicles sold there will maintain the locally sourced and manufactured diesel engines.

The newly introduced 2.2L DOHC I-4 Ford/PSA truck diesel is not considered viable due to size.

The Ford/PSA 2.7L V-6 is not anticipated as viable for Ranger due to engine cost.

* ExplorerThe 2.7L Ford/PSA could be a potential candidate as an Explorer diesel, but a modest displacement increase to 3.0L-3.4L may be needed.

Explorer will match competitive products with diesels, but earliest projection is the '10 model year or later.

Land Rover Current ('06-'07 model year)The LR3, or Discovery 3 as it is known outside the United States, has the new Ford/PSA 2.7L V-6 DOHC diesel available in all markets but the United States.

Projections (2008 and beyond)The worldwide diesel LR3 has the potential to be marketed in the U.S. as well. Additional hardware would be required to meet the emission requirements, but that should not be a problem with this modern high-technical content engine design. The LR3 is projected to have a diesel in the U.S. by the '09 model year.

General Motors* Diesels are a key part to GM's powertrain plan as noted in the April 11, 2005, issue of Automotive News.

* As stated by Thomas Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain:

"Diesels are a tremendous priority for us. We are a global company. In Europe, diesels have grown exponentially. As you know, we are starting GM Powertrain Europe in Turin, Italy. We are going to be working heavily in diesels. We've got a tremendous diesel portfolio that we are going to continue to work on."

* It is projected some of the European diesel powertrains will find their way to application to U.S. products.

Chevrolet/GMC and other GM Current ('06-'07 Model Year)* Colorado/Canyon, TrailBlazer, and derivatives

There are no applications of diesel engines in either of the vehicles, both in the U.S. or worldwide. Only TrailBlazer is exported, and all have gasoline engines.

In South America, the previous generation of S-10 pickup and Blazer SUV are locally manufactured and include a South American diesel engine from International SA/MWM, designated as the Sprint diesel. This engine is a 2.8L SOHC I-4 with 130 hp at 3,600 rpm and 245 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm.

GM has business alliances with Isuzu for diesel engine technology and design. Isuzu has pickup trucks sold overseas with its own 3.0L V-6 and 2.5L I-4 diesels.

The 3.0L DOHC V-6 is also used in an Opel vehicle and is rated at 175 hp.

Holden/Isuzu pickups in Australia and New Zealand are equipped with the mechanically controlled 2.5L SOHC I-4. Power specifications are: 78 hp at 3,800 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* There has been no information published or rumors circulated indicating there are firm plans for diesel powertrain in these vehicles.

* Colorado/CanyonThe trucks would need a DOHC I-4 of about 2.8L. No engine of this size exists in European/Asian Isuzu/Holden trucks. There has been nothing found to indicate GM has plans to expand its overseas pickup presence.

It is not anticipated this vehicle series will get a diesel engine.

* TrailBlazer and derivativesA likely candidate engine for SUVs is the Isuzu 3.0L DOHC V-6.

Application of diesels to the GM compact trucks/SUVs is expected by the '09 model year, when it has been projected the vehicles will be re-engineered.

Hummer Current ('06-'07 Model Year)* H3

There are no present applications of Hummer H3 with diesel engines.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* H3

It has been reported in the October 24, 2005, issue of Automotive News that GM intends to offer both V-8 and diesel versions of the H3.

The V-8 was reported to be a couple years out, and the diesel will be added later.

An engine of 3.5L would be the appropriate size, and the Isuzu 3.0L DOHC is the candidate but would probably need increased displacement.

Based on these GM statements, an H3 diesel could be as early as the '09 model year.

Nissan Motors* Diesel engines are used worldwide in Nissan compact trucks and SUVs.

* Nissan has modern diesel engine designs, which have the capability for use in the United States.

* Nissan priorities in the U.S. will be focused on diesels for the Titan and hybrid technology. Diesel engine focus in the near term will be to meet the European markets' emission requirements.

Nissan Current ('06-'07 Model Year)* Frontier and XterraThe Frontier pickup and Xterra SUV are sold in South America with an International MWM/ 2.8L I-4 diesel. The engine has 138 hp at 3,500 rpm and 251 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Outside of the Americas, Nissan markets a worldwide pickup named the Navara. The diesel engines in this vehicle are Nissan design DOHC I-4s of 2.5L and 3.0L displacement. These are modern engine designs with common-rail injection and are turbocharged and intercooled.

Performance of the Nissan Navara diesels are:

3.0L: 158 hp at 3,600 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm

2.5L: 174 hp at 3,600 rpm and 297 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm

* PathfinderWorldwide applications have the Nissan 2.5L DOHC I-4 with 174 hp at 3,600 rpm and 297 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* Frontier, Xterra, and PathfinderPlans by Nissan to add diesels to these vehicles have not been revealed in any media source.

Nissan-made worldwide diesels are state-of-the-art designs and could be used in North America with added hardware to meet U.S. emissions and recalibration. Within the engine family, there are two engine displacements: 2.5L and 3.0L, with a 2.5L variant having the highest horsepower.

Either of the engines could be used with specific applications a function competitive market pressures.

Nissan will maintain competitiveness with other vehicles in its truck/SUV classes, and it is projected it will have diesel vehicles for the Frontier, Xterra, and Pathfinder by the '10 model year time frame.

Toyota Motors* Toyota has many applications of diesel engines in its worldwide compact trucks and SUVs.

* Toyota's focus in the U.S. in the short term will be to add a diesel engine option to its Tundra trucks.

* There has been no conclusive reporting of Toyota's plans to add diesel engines to its compact platform vehicles, but it has candidate engines/powertrains, which have the potential to be used in the United States.

Toyota Current ('06-'07 Model Year)* Tacoma Toyota markets its compact pickup as the Toyota Hilux outside of the United States.

Toyota manufactures a diesel engine for worldwide use. It has two DOHC I-4s, a 3.0L rated at 161 hp at 3,400 rpm and 253 lb-ft of torque at 1,400 rpm and a 2.5L rated at: 101 hp at 3,600 rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm

* 4RunnerToyota markets its compact SUV as the Land Cruiser Prado outside of the United States.

The Prado has both the Toyota 2.5L and 3.0L diesel dependent on market and country.

Projections (2008 and beyond)* Tacoma and 4RunnerNo information has been found to confirm plans for diesels in North America.

The Toyota diesel used for wide applications is a modern design with electronic controls, common-rail injection, turbocharger, and intercooler. This engine could meet U.S. emission requirements with calibration and additional hardware.

Based on competitive projections, Toyota will probably offer diesel engines in its compact truck vehicles about the '10 model year timeframe.

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