Chrysler CEO: Light-Duty Diesel Ram Pickup Feasible, but is There Demand?

By Patrick Olsen

At a roundtable discussion this morning at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, CEO Sergio Marchionne said Chrysler is capable of producing a diesel light-duty pickup truck, but that there’s no demand for it in the U.S. market.

"Do we have the technology to get it done? Absolutely yes. Do we have the engines to get it done? Absolutely yes," he said. "Is there a market for this? I don’t know.

"We can do it all," Marchionne said. "We have the engines, the know-how, because as you well know, Fiat is the repository of a huge amount of diesel know-how because of our industrial applications and even on the passenger car side. We’d love to do it, but the question is, will it sell?"

Marchionne noted that several Chrysler vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler, are both available with 3.0-liter diesel engines in Europe, but they are not available in the U.S. currently and would have to be adapted to meet strict and costly emission standards.

Cummins has also developed a light-duty diesel V-8 for North American light-truck manufacturers that's rumored to be a 5.0-liter oil burner that could be used in the Ram 1500.

When a journalist suggested Wrangler fans would jump at a chance to buy a diesel version, Marchionne said, "That’s something we need to take a hard look at. Simply because, certainly the torque performance of that machine would be. ... There are great attributes out of having diesels in a car. That’s why they’re so popular in the heavy-duty side of trucks."

Perhaps Jeep could fit a diesel engine into the "multipurpose" vehicle that Marchionne also discussed this morning?


Why not just try and do it? I bet the response you get from people buying a half ton Ram with a cummins would be more than you expected! I read alot of truck magazines and alot of people want a half ton with a diesel motor. And a small diesel in a Jeep would be super!

As I have said before the fist to build a half ton diesel wins. Just like in a 2500 trucks diesels have a place in a 1500's as well, build a diesel geared towards fuel efficiency and longevity and not so much around towing and you will have a winner!

Just build the damn thing already.. Watch them sell like hot cakes... Then GM and Ford start selling them. People want trucks, they want fuel economy, they dont want comlicated hybrid crap with huge batteries and start stop junk...

1st to the market with a 1/2 Diesel gets a sale from me..

Just build it already!

I think there was a demand for this several years ago, but with the way diesels have gone, it wouldn't be profitable anymore. 20 years ago a gas truck would get 12 mpg while a diesel got 20 (I have a '90 Dodge gasser and '89 Cummins, so trust me on that). There have been drastic improvements to gas and diesel engines in that time, but the unreasonable emissions controls negate any benefit to diesel economy. Modern gassers average 15 mpg (1/2 tons better, HDs worse) while diesels have gone down to 18. With ULSD carrying a 10% price premium over regular gas and the added cost of DEF at 5.99/gal, it just isn't profitable for a private individual to buy diesel anymore. The savings are so minimal that unless you do frequent, heavy towing, there's no way to justify the initial expense. The only way a light duty diesel could be profitable now is if it gets 25+ mpg.

@ Luke

I agree.

Full disclosure, I own an 05 Dodge with a Cumins which I love. As much as I would like a diesel option for a half ton I don't see it happening. Too expensive and you will not see the expected fuel mileage benefits due to the required emission controls. If I had a crystal ball I would say that engines such as Ford's new Eco Boost will fill the niche market that a light duty diesel would have filled a few years ago. This type of engine is offered at the right price point, offers the amount of power and torque appropriate for a half ton and gets close if not slightly better fuel mileage than a diesel. Time will tell but they look like they may even hold up as well as a diesel. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

I think the whole argument is about USLD and the cost of production, rather than whether people would buy diesels. it is no big deal in Europe as 80% of vehicles are diesel anyway.

@ Luke, I agree but it might do good if it is like a 3.0 with 6,000 tow cap, not trying to be the highest in towing which is the down fall of other new trucks, (F-150) IMOP. lots of people only tow 6,000 or less boats, camping trailers, work trailers with a 3.0 should get that +25mpg...

the problem comes down to this if you get 25% better fuel economy but the diesel fuel cost 15% more then regular fuel that means you will only save 10% and then factor that the average life of a car is about 125,000 miles will you be able to pay back that 5-7,000 in extra cost of the diesel truck.
plus the more people that buy diesel the higher diesel prices go.
look back when the did not have turbo or direct inject on diesel the diesel fuel was cheaper and back then no one would buy diesel but now they do. simple supply and demand. Europe pay for alot of there taxes by fuel that why gas is so high and if you drive a diesel you get better fuel economy and pay less taxes

Here is my two cents.
Okay, Cummins and Chrysler have already spent the money to develop the V8 diesel for the US. Go ahead and offer it, but be the first two offer two different engines for the HD market. Does everyone need 400+ HP and 800 +lb/ft of torque? I think not. Therefore, it may reduce the demand on the bigger engines, but it would also improve their CAFE rating because the small diesel in the HD and LD would probably be more economical than the bigger engine.

@ Luke, I agree too. I think the numbers would surprise people if/when a small diesel finally hit the market. He even said they would have to make changes to meet the strict and costly emmissions standards. That equates to a higher price and lower mpg. Add to that the lag time till it gets done, and Ford or others will have Ecoboost type engines tweaked to give equal results for less money, while running on cheaper fuel than diesel. I think it will take new technology, or old tech used in a new way with diesel to make it worthwhile. These truck makers aren't stupid, but they are greedy. If they can sell them for a profit, they will.

Cost of Production includes cost and producing enough USLD to meet demand , that I think is the major problem in stopping more diesel vehicles, Pickups and cars becoming more popular in the US.

I doubt 1/2 ton pickup truck buyers would be willing to pay the price premium.

@ Luke, I agree but it might do good if it is like a 3.0 with 6,000 tow cap, not trying to be the highest in towing which is the down fall of other new trucks, (F-150) IMOP. lots of people only tow 6,000 or less boats, camping trailers, work trailers with a 3.0 should get that +25mpg...
Posted by: Dave


Take Ford's new 3.7 liter V6 that gets 23 mpg with a 6,1000 lb tow rating. Then take your imaginary diesel that gets 25 mpg with a 6,000 lb tow rating.

Your diesel's 25 mpg is 9% more efficent.

But diesel fuel costs 10% more. Plus the cost of the diesel engine itself about $5,000.+

Sorry, Dave, the numbers just don't work.

i have an 03 1500 gas hemi...average 14.5 mpg 90% in canada it legal as of now to pull off a DPF. i have a buddie that gas done this with his 09 2500 6.7 cummis and gets an honest 23-24 Mpg highway unloaded and not towing.(with a fuel saver program installed as well). so with a way lighter truck and smaller diesel motor its not crazy to think 27-29 mpg real world is it? beats the hell out of 14.5. btw here in canada i guess we are lucky gas is today 1.13/liter. and deisel is 1.01.

the reality is, bcux we're online n we're all voicing our opinion so it may sound like their a very large interest for one or for anything. we as net surfers voices make up a small fraction of the buying public.

I would love to see it, and if I were in the market to buy within the next five to 10 years, and if it were a $4000 or less option, it sure as hell would be in my driveway next.

But I'm not going to trade my 08 in for a 2012 just so I can get a diesel.

@ Luke

You are right that you can't justify the incremental cost of diesel engines on fuel savings alone. But to only consider MPG as the determining factor on whether somebody would buy a diesel engine over a gas engine is failing to recognize some other important points that diesel engines bring to the table.

If I buy a diesel engine (which I would in this case), I'm buying for durability and torque at low RPMs. The lifespan of a Cummins engine alone justifies a higher price for me. A diesel engine built to match the torque of a senseless engine like the Hemi would be medium displacement and would probably fall in the 25+ MPG range with 250 hp. This should have been an option all along. But what do I know.

We need some kind of voting system so the public can tell the automakers what kind of vehicle we would buy. The auto industry has a large effect on how this country performs, I think we should have our say.

"here in canada it legal as of now to pull off a DPF. i have a buddie that gas done this with his 09 2500 6.7 cummis and gets an honest 23-24 Mpg highway unloaded and not towing.(with a fuel saver program installed as well). so with a way lighter truck and smaller diesel motor its not crazy to think 27-29 mpg real world is it?" --chris12559

Sure, it is definitely possible to get 27-29mpg with the right diesel motor in a light truck. But not here in the states. Not with all the stupid, costly emissions crap that has given diesels almost no advantages over a gas counterpart when it comes to fuel mileage. We can't just pull our emissions equipment off our trucks. Face it guys, nowadays you'd be lucky to break even on the purchase of a diesel over gas engine, and that would take several years and many miles. The only reason to get a diesel now is bragging rights (and towing power, obviously). It's time to look elsewhere for better fuel economy in a truck. Can't wait to see how the Ecoboost is doing in a few years.

For crying out loud why are American automakers such chicken s***s ? get some balls for crying out loud .

just put a cummins in it and try it! chances are it will work.

its risky but so was fords raptor and that worked great

sure but the jetta tdi is way better then any gas/eletric car. 50mpgs with the tdi and a stick shift? so you want feul economy go with a car, or a HALF TON ford. but you wanna work get a diesel it will pull good get decent feul economy and comforable to with the coiles in the rear that do work. so make your choice.

If they build it the people will come!

Guys, we should petition GM to BRING BACK the half-ton diesels! Chrysler and Ford have never had a half-ton diesel pickup (to MY knowledge -- correct me if I'm wrong). Jeep SUVs had production diesel engines for a brief while, but they were canned because not enough demand. It'd be waaay better than a Dodge Durango hybrid, which was weighed down with so much battery and technocrap and all-wheel drive that fuel economy was just as bad as it was with the Hemi regular engine! Back to topic (sort of), GM has an edge already - half-ton diesel history!


That history isn't exactly the kind of history GM wants to rely on. The 6.2 left lots of buyers with a bad taste in there mouth. It is the same reason why Fiat is having such a hard time getting back into America.

i get a diesel half ton,any time before get a gas engine,no gas engine match a diesel,not ford ecoboost give people a choice diesel or not,and the difference of the price is the customer choice..

As much as I would like to see a Ram 1500, or F-150 & General Motors 1500 twins, with a turbocharged diesel option...I do not think that it would sell very. The only way I see it selling well is if the diesel option was less than $2,000.00. People will not want to spend much more than that I am sure.

Ford has a clear winner with the EcoBoost F-150. Way more horsepower than a 1/2 ton diesel will likely put out and right about the same amount of torque, I am guessing. Better than diesel horsepower and equal torque for a low ($750.00 option) cost.

With that, let's see what is up the General Motors' and Ram's sleeves? I hope that it will be good!

I think the small pick-up segment (colorado, tacoma, ranger, dakota) would grow if there were small 4-cylinder diesels in them like the rest of the world that has 300 ft/lb of torque, can town 6000 lbs and gets 30 mpg. More so than a half ton pickup with a diesel that gets 25mpg diesel. Anyone else agree?

Ram, Ford, & GM have all been looking at 1/2 ton diesels for years. As has been posted Cummins developed a small V8 for Ram, Navistar did it for Ford and there was a baby Max ready to go.
Really, if these company thought there was a large enough market--don"t you think these trucks would be for sale already?
The numbers/figures just DON'T work so no 1/2 ton diesels right now.
If not for fleet sales it would be hard for them to justify a diesel in over 8500 lb trucks as the individual retail buyer numbers would not be high enough & fleets would not be buying 1/2 ton diesels!
The low sales numbers for stuff like the GM hybrid trucks don't make sense either but they get "green" mileage out of the publicity by offering such things, would you buy one of those for true savings overall? Those numbers don't work very good either.

I agree with you RDR, I remember the Dodge D50 with the 2.6 diesle, it was a great truck and I too think they could make something like that now that would sell.

The problem with the eco-boost is that Ford said V8 power with V6 mileage, well it has MORE power and torque then the V8 it replaced but NOT the gas mileage of its own V6. I think Ford should have stuck to its word and not try to be the most powerful. I wonder what the eco-boost in the Explorer will be? Ford and the blogs are toting how great of gas mileage it is going to get just like they did on the F-150 that did not happen.

Vote conservative and start pushing for the EPA to loosen diesel emissions regs.

The current regs where based on the junk science of global warming.

Seems like none of the big three are sure if a small diesel will sell and it sounds like GM and Ram have motors ready to go. I think someone needs to have the guts to just offer it and put it out there to see what happens, I think they will be surprised at how well it will sell. Kinda like Ford and the Raptor, it is doing better than they thought. Someone needs to buck up and do it already, and it needs to be GM because it seems like they are lacking in the innovation department lately. It would be a serious mistake for GM and Ram to slack and let Ford be the first out with one because they're the king of innovative new crap latley and this would be a rather big blow for GM and Ram to have Ford put out a LD diesel first.

I guess it depends on what they are targeting:

a) heavy duty half ton crowd that uses it for work/towing rv etc?

b) fuel mileage crowd.

a) works if
i) Ram beefs up their 1500s gawr/gvwr/gcwr, & ii) its still cheaper to buy vs. a 2500 HD diesel

b) works if
i) the initial cost is not too high, &
ii) It actually gets considerably better mileage than the other top V8s. (25% better real world)

What they can't do is try to cater to a) & b).... c.

I believe there is a tremendous potential in the market for someone to build a midsize pickup maybe even with a composite bed that gets 30+ mpg on the highway. So many of us want the room and comfort that our big pickups offer but do not need the capacity that they offer all the time. I feal that most anyone will do with out the towing/hauling capacity for a 4x4, that has comfort and room for 5-6 people to go down the road for 4-6 hours and get 30+ mpg. I owned a volkswagen Jetta TDI for a while and getting 45+ mpg you learn to do with out space. Build and they will come guarunteed. My dad has a JEEP cherokee with the diesel and I feel Chrysler screwed up by not putting a 6 speed trans in it. It tac's around 3000 rpm at 70 mph and get 25 mpg, if you had another gear I am sure it would get 28-30 and then you would see them everywhere.

One has to wonder on what U.S. auto manufacturers are basing their reticence in offering LD diesel pickups. MB, Audi, VW and BMW SUVs have all EXCEEDED their diesel targets originally set in the U.S., some dramatically. And that's in spite of having to add expensive aftertreatment to meet T2B5 emissions and diesel fuel remaining about $0.25 more expensive.

Granted, these are mostly low volume, high end products, but VW has stated that their Jetta SportWagen TDI has made up about 80% of the sales mix, and they've actually considered dropping the gasoline version.

What sales mix would Chrysler consider a success?

I would buy one in a heartbeat and I know my dad would buy one as soon as he could. I am hoping that a Diesel Titan will be available sometime in the future so that I can get one of those.

If ram or gm built a 30mpg small diesel truck I would sell my Acura Tl and jump over to a truck

Good gawd gurdy he should already know the answer to the "will it sell" question. That's why auto manufacturers do extensive public polling and surveys.

The real question is will anyone buy a Fiat powered diesel pickup. I would take a wait and see on that.

For the record, Dodge did offer a diesel in the light duty Ram 150 back in '78 and '79. The engine was a Mitsubishi non-turbo'ed 6 cylinder. Very rugged, but very slow too. Few were sold. There was also a Ram 50/Mitsubishi diesel for a few years. Anyway, I think a diesel Ram 1500 would be a mistake at this pont. I think the truck would be so close in price to a Cummins Ram 2500 that there would be no point to it. Who is going to pay $50,000 for a half-ton? Not me.

"For crying out loud why are American automakers such chicken s***s ? get some balls for crying out loud ." -Taylor

Probably because a handful of American consumers are chicken s***s towards buying American products? If the American automakers had the support of Americans, I bet the automakers would be more willing to take risks?

"The real question is will anyone buy a Fiat powered diesel pickup. I would take a wait and see on that." -Ken

Why wouldn't they? People are buying the Isuzu powered (I mean designed/developed) diesel pickups from General Motors.

1) For the most part, 1/2 ton guys need a modest capability for towing or need a relatively inexpensive way to move their "stuff" from place to place. A 1/2 ton pickup is the best compromise in terms of total purchase cost, operating cost, and capability between heavy-duty trucks, 1/2 ton trucks, and suvs-large cars.
2) For the oems, it doesn't make sense to drop a diesel into a 1/2 ton. You will drive the initial purchase cost through the roof and unless this diesel is getting 25 in the city and 30+ out on the highway, it becomes just another expense a 1/2 ton guy can't afford.
3) The bottom line is 1/2 ton gasser for harry homeowner and joe small business owner more than meets the need. You need more towing? Get yourself a 3/4 or 1-ton. Case Closed!

Is there a market ? For sure in Europe ! Why not develop the export market with good american truck diesel powered ?

When they can build engines like the Ecoboost that match diesel's flat torque curve, and that operate at a lower cost and get similar mpg, there's not enough difference to offer a diesel too. These new gas engines appeal to all buyers, while the diesel engines turn many people away. They can build one engine and have a much broader market.

There are some very interesting points being made, and many have valid points/concerns about the validity of the diesel half-ton in today’s market. However, I’m surprised that Chrysler CEO doesn’t think there is a market for a half-ton diesel considering the take rate on Ram HD is over 80%. There is a winning formula for creating and marketing an affordable diesel in North America; ask VW. Our German friends have shown us the ingredients for a successful product that defies all notions of a niche market by offering: efficiency, reliability, low cost of ownership, and low initial cost. All in a package that doesn’t win any performance or aesthetic awards, but excels in every practical and functional aspect. So much so, that Mercedes Benz is reintroducing several new oil-burners for the U.S. in 2012-2013. Yet, the question remains, will American trucks owners buy one? I ask everyone to consider this: Would anyone have believed that a twin-turbo V-6 in a full-size truck capable of towing 11,000 lbs be viable in the segment dominated by V-8 engines? And at a premium nonetheless? With unknown reliability and longevity in the real world? The Blue Oval guys have taken a risk, and are out selling all competitors and they will continue to until someone else takes a risk. I am the proud owner of a 2010 Ram 2500 4X4 with a Cummins. I rarely tow anything over 10,000 lbs, and could have easily made due with a half-ton, but when I do tow (usually around 7,000 lbs) there is nothing like a diesel pulling strong and long up a 3-7% grade like there’s nothing back there. Here’s what made me buy: Ram offered a strong engine in an comfortable package at a price less than competitors. Make a half-tow with those same characteristics, and watch the trucks leave the lots, just be prepared to see sales slow on HD trucks. American automakers are the slowest to respond to consumer wants. By the time any of them produces a light-duty diesel, Toyota will have a diesel-hybrid that runs off of death crystals in the next Tundra. LOL.

I have a 2010 F150 with the 5.4L V8 4x4 SCrew, and can tow my camper and toys just fine (11,000# rating). This truck cost over $45K, add another $5K for the diesel and I wouldn't have purchased it. My wife has a 2010 Tacoma 4x4 SCrew with the 4.0L V6 and a manual. Now that truck would be perfect with a diesel.

The issue is a 1/2 ton diesel would be too close to the 3/4 ton diesel in performance and cost to justify. A compact pickup with a diesel would make a lot more sense. Keep the size about 3.0-3.5L and you'll have a winner. Jeep should use the diesel in the Wrangler because of the torque advantage off road. On road it would be more about mileage and occasional towing than anything else.

I would love a compact (Taco, Ranger, etc..) diesel. With a 6K pound tow rating it would be the ulitimate trucklet.

I think Ford's Ecoboost would be more desireable, more fuel economy, if they didn't decide to play the HP race with it. Most pickup consumers aren't interested in a relatively good fuel efficient for a stretched out 365hp/420Tq engine. They want excellent fuel economy for a half ton pickup.

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