At a recent event to announce the production plans and construction details of its new V-8 turbo-diesel, Cummins provided more details about where this new engine, tagged the ISV5.0, came from and where it will fit. And we have a few thoughts ourselves.
Cummins has been developing this engine for almost 13 years. The project started following a request from partner Chrysler, which was looking for a cost-effective engine option for pickup truck buyers with work-priority needs. Unfortunately, by the time engine development got to a point where decisions had to be made, the economy, fuel prices and new-truck buyers' priorities were shifting. Putting the 5.0-liter V-8 turbo-diesel — although well into the testing phase — in the redesigned 2008 Ram 1500 (we remember seeing EPA stickers that identified the engine on a few prototype test trucks at a press event) was killed, especially when Fiat entered the picture.
During that time period Cummins was doing a pretty good job of updating and improving the existing ISB Cummins, already hugely popular with the heavy-duty Dodge/Ram crowd. The result was that the ISV5.0 didn't have a home, until the CEO of Ram Truck was hired away by Nissan, and something dramatic needed to be done to the next-generation Titan to capture some credibility in a tightly competitive segment.
Although Cummins is pretty tight-lipped about how many Titans it thinks will be bought with the 5.0-liter engine, folks there are quick to point to their initial projections with Dodge in the late 1980s when the Chrysler/Cummins partnership was forged in the Ram HDs. Neither party expected take rates to be more than 10,000 units per year. Now it's more than 10 times that number, and it would be more if more engines could be produced.
Still, this is a sophisticated engine and it won't be an inexpensive powertrain option, even if the parties find some way to get the engine into more Nissan products, like the work-ready NV vans, a possible Titan 2500 or a seven-lug work-truck Titan package. Even if all those possible scenarios happen, we're guessing the total number of vehicles sold with the new powertrain still won't get to 10,000 units, and that assumes the price is extremely competitive.
No doubt having the Cummins name on the side of the truck (and Nissan would do well to make that name as big as possible wherever it's put) will get non-Nissan buyers to take a look at the truck. Ram certainly had huge success getting Chevy and Ford buyers into showrooms by offering technology and unique powertrain choices (and don't forget hugely improved interiors) the competition did not have.
Regardless, as good as this Cummins engine might be (and we haven't driven it yet in any application), in order for Nissan's next-generation Titan to succeed, this new engine will have to be just a small piece of the puzzle.