By Mark Williams
It's no secret that truck buyers can be stingy with their hard-earned cash; they want to see solid value for every dollar they spend. It's also no secret that Ford took a huge risk about five years ago when it decided to make a huge investment in its V-6 truck engine strategy.
Long before the economy went south, U.S. auto dealers knew a crisis was looming, and long before bank credit was squeezed to a trickle, Ford rolled the dice and transformed the all-V-8 lineup in its full-size pickups into a roster with two V-6s and two V-8s.
We’ve already told you about Ford's 3.7-liter V-6 in our V-6 Shootout, so you know we like it. And we’ve also done extensive road testing of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, so you know we have our issues with that one. But did you know that, for the first time in F-Series history, the V-6 offerings in the half-ton have been outselling the bigger V-8 options?
For four straight months this year — May through August — more than 50 percent of F-150s sold in the U.S. either had the 3.7-liter base engine or the 3.5-liter EcoBoost under the hood. What’s more, the EcoBoost V-6 carries a $750 premium over the base V-8, also a first for the segment. In Ford’s mind, the extra cost was needed to help defray development costs and was justified because the EcoBoost's power numbers (365 horsepower and 420 pounds-feet of torque) are better than the 5.0-liter V-8 by 5 hp and 40 pounds-feet. Still, no one else in the industry knew this was going to happen — certainly not GM, Chrysler or Toyota, who all are currently left scrambling in Ford’s wake.
But how are they responding? We’ve heard reports that GM will come out with its own "new technology" V-6 in time (or soon after) the debut of the new Chevy Silverado, due to go on sale as a 2013 model. Ram has been planning to put the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (now in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler) in its trucks for several years, but we haven’t heard anything about turbocharging it or mating it with the much-anticipated eight-speed transmissions that Chrysler and Dodge are putting in their high-horsepower cars.
So what's a truck maker to do? They can't let Ford hog all the attention.
First to take a swipe at Ford's advantage is Chrysler, allowing Ram Truck to offer a "No-Charge Hemi" program during all of September. Qualified buyers of a 2011 or 2012 Ram 1500, 2500 or 3500 can choose a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine at no extra charge (if optional) or opt for $1,000 bonus cash (if it's the base engine) on models equipped with the smaller 3.7-liter V-6 gas, 4.7-liter V-8 gas or 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel engines.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine makes 390 horsepower and 407 pounds-feet of torque, and it gets 20 mpg on the highway.
Chrysler also announced it is offering qualified consumers zero-percent financing for up to 72 months on all 2011 models (excluding the Grand Cherokee) in September.
We expect to see more of this kind of aggressive sales competition, especially in this segment. So if you’re in the market for a new half-ton truck, your timing could not be better. More financing details are below.
2012 Ram Trucks
- Qualified consumers purchasing a 2011 or 2012 model year Ram pickup truck can choose a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine at no extra charge or opt for $1,000 in Engine Bonus Cash on models equipped with 3.7-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8 or Cummins diesel engines.
- Qualified consumers who purchase a 2012 Ram pickup truck may be eligible for 3.9 percent financing for 60 months or $500 in Customer Cash
2011 Ram Trucks
- Qualified consumers who purchase a 2011 Ram 1500 pickup truck may be eligible for financing as low as zero percent for 60 months or up to $3,250 in Customer Cash
- Qualified consumers who purchase a 2011 Ram Heavy-Duty pickup truck may be eligible for financing as low as zero percent for 60 months or up to $2,500 in Customer Cash for trucks equipped with a diesel engine