Diesel Power For Ford's New F-150?
For some time, Ford Motor Company has been talking with the International Truck and Engine Corp. regarding an inline-six diesel engine for the new-generation F-150. Now it's being reported that the agreement between International and Ford is off; Ford, however, remains committed to diesel power for the F-Series.
Dave Szczupak, Ford's global powertrain chief, stated that a diesel-powered F-150 "could be a big seller." We agree. The diesel F-150 could be rolling off Ford assembly lines as early as 2005, followed shortly by a midsize diesel SUV, according to Phil Martens, Ford's vice president of North American Product Creation.
Industry insiders claim that Ford wants to be the first U.S. automaker to offer a light-duty diesel truck, thus strengthening the F-150's status as the world's best-selling vehicle. It's reported that General Motors is also looking at this market segment, and Ford wants to beat the General to the punch.
What's unclear is who will supply Ford with a diesel engine for its trucks. Ford most likely would buy a diesel from a supplier, such as International, as designing a new diesel engine from the ground up is a costly endeavor. International Truck and Engine Corp. currently builds Ford's 6.0L Power Stroke engine used in the F-series Super Duty, and that presents a major problem for both Ford and International. Ford has bought back more than 500 Power Stroke-powered trucks because of severe engine malfunctions caused by the fuel-injection system. Ford also encountered problems with the turbocharger and engine computer on the 6.0L V-8s; these problems are the major reason why Ford and International Truck are at odds.
Last year, Ford canceled plans to buy International Truck's 4.5L diesel V-6, which would have been used in the new F-150. The loss of that contract cost International Truck $170 million, reflecting the cost of engine development and factory tooling, although Ford and International later reached a settlement on the development costs.
Martens has ruled out new contracts with International Truck. "We stopped work with International on the V-6," Martens says. "Right now, there are no plans to restart that work." Martens did not indicate why Ford killed the V-6 deal, but it is believed that the engine was too costly and would not have been able to meet future pollution standards.
The stalemate between Ford and International could be a huge problem for the Blue Oval. Ford sells 250,000 diesel-powered Super Duty pickups each year, and they represent large profits. While Ford struggles with the Power Stroke engine, General Motors is making inroads with its Duramax engine; GM expects to sell 150,000 diesel-powered HD Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks this year.
Back to Ford's search for a diesel engine supplier; there are several potential candidates: Detroit Diesel has a 4.0-L V-6 rated at 235 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque. The company could have the engine ready for the '06 model year. However, there is a possible problem: Detroit Diesel builds engines for DaimlerChrysler. However, a Detroit Diesel official says its relationship with DaimlerChrysler would not prevent a contract with Ford.
John Deere is a well-known builder of diesel engines for light- and heavy-duty equipment. Company spokesman Ken Golden stated that John Deere could produce a six-cylinder diesel for a light-duty truck, but has not been approached by Ford.
Caterpillar Inc. would seem a likely choice to build a Ford diesel, as the company specializes in diesels for heavy trucks, earth-moving equipment, and buses, but company officials say they have no plans to build a small V-6 diesel for a light truck.