Light-duty truck buyers interested in purchasing a half-ton diesel are going to have to wait until after 2010 at the very earliest. GM is the latest manufacturer to confirm a diesel engine won’t be offered any time soon in its light-duty pickups. Employees at GM’s Tonawanda Engine Plant near Buffalo, N.Y., were told Monday that the all-new 4.5-liter Duramax V-8 diesel has been indefinitely postponed.
“Due to capital constraints and the current economic climate, the 4.5-liter Duramax is on indefinite hold,” GM powertrain spokesperson Susan Garavaglia told PickupTrucks.com. “It’s not canceled. Should the situation change, we’re still very interested in adding this technology to our product portfolio.”
The news of the so-called baby Duramax being placed on hold isn’t surprising. Ford and Toyota have also indefinitely paused their small diesel programs, and Chrysler recently said a diesel for the Dodge Ram 1500 won’t be available until 2011 at the earliest. Ford, GM, Chrysler and Toyota had previously promised half-ton diesels by the 2010 calendar year.
A rapid surge in fuel prices last year that left diesel fuel with an approximate 20 percent price premium over regular gasoline and the dramatic decline in pickup truck sales have been cited by other truck manufacturers, as well as the deteriorating condition of the general economy.
The 4.5-liter Duramax was a major innovation for diesel engines. It was designed by GM entirely in-house and represented a radical new approach to diesel engine architecture. It reversed the intake and exhaust relative to a conventional diesel so fresh air would enter the cylinders from the outer edges of the cylinder heads while exhaust gases were dumped between the cylinder heads directly into a turbocharger. The breakthrough design eliminated the intake and exhaust manifolds and other related components, saving weight, reducing size and lowering costs by up to an estimated $600 per engine versus a conventional diesel. GM promised power ratings for the 4.5-liter Duramax would be more than 310 horsepower and 520 pounds-feet of torque with up to 25 percent better fuel economy.
“We currently offer a full line of gas and diesel engines in different displacements to meet truck buyers’ needs,” Garavaglia said. “And our Two-Mode Hybrid gets up to 40 percent better fuel economy in the city (versus a comparable gas engine light-duty pickup). For towing and hauling we have our 6.6-liter Duramax diesel available for our heavy-duty Silverado and Sierra pickups. It will be updated for 2010 to meet the latest [EPA] emissions requirements.”
The 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax is rated at 660 pounds-feet of torque and 365 hp.
Garavaglia added that GM might license the 4.5-liter V-8 to an outside partner even if it doesn't build it on its own.
"If it was a win-win for both parties, we could potentially outsource production [of the 4.5-liter V-8] to a third party," Garavaglia said.