Veteran Auto Journalist Gives Auto Execs the Squeeze

Longtime automotive journalist and Automotive News Product Editor Rick Kranz knows how to ask just the right question at just the right time to get auto execs to say just the wrong thing. The "wrong" thing, in this case, is usually what public relations handlers have been trying to prevent their auto execs from telling the media for some time.

Case it point: Here are three interesting pieces of info that we didn't hear anyone else get, including ourselves, at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show. Thankfully, Rick did.

Dakota lifestyle vehicle

  • Ram Truck CEO Fred Diaz told Rick that Chrysler is evaluating both a unibody and body-on-frame midsize pickup in both front- and rear-wheel-drive configurations. "As a global organization, we are now starting to look at what we can bring to the market that would actually work in Europe, Asia, the U.S., Mexico and so forth, and get the platform right so that we can enjoy the economies of scale that come with that. ... It's something we're evaluating," Diaz said. (Ed. note: The vehicle above has no official plans for production. Still, it is an interesting concept in light of Diaz's comments.)


  • General Motors North America President Mark Reuss told Rick regarding the new midsize, body-on-frame, rear-drive little pickup that this new vehicle will be more about lower cost of ownership than high technology. "You may have 85 or 90 percent of what a big pickup will do ... but rather than putting full-blown four-mode or two-mode hybrids in large pickup trucks and trying to get efficiency out of it, which is extremely expensive, we can do things with (little pickups) with lower displacement, hybridization and alternative fuels," said Reuss, who continued to say the new Colorado would be "really cheap to run."

Escalade EXT

  • Don Butler, Cadillac's marketing president, told Rick that a diesel engine is under consideration in one (and possibly several) of the luxury brand models. The diesel "could be a potential hedge in the U.S. because of the diesel's great torque, great performance with great efficiency," Butler said. Naturally, it makes sense for Cadillac to suggest this option with competitors in the luxury segment like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all using their own turbo-diesels in the luxury class, but it could also imply some big changes for newer versions of vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade (and Escalade ESV and EXT) that will be based off the coming new Chevy and GMC pickups. But Rick notes that this time around if GM is going to come back to diesels in their cars and light-duty trucks, it had better be a homerun. 


Great article of possible things to come.

I could only guess that the diesel option in an Escalade would also mean a diesel option in the Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, Yukon XL as well. The Suburban would be an infinitely better vehicle with a good diesel engine. The issue is diesel's current image here in the US. It is a better alternative for a vehicle that size, we just need to be sold on it. It's called MARKETING.

I like the thought of a cheep to buy, maintain and run small truck, isn't that what they were always meant to be?
If GMC lives up to that promise, they will do well, but they need to do something about that mongoloid face.

A Cadillac diesel would be a great idea.

Odd how there weren't any slip-ups in relation to the next gen full sized trucks from GM.

Diesel is the best option for efficiency today. And if even half the money wasted on hybrid technology was applied to diesel technology, it would be an even better option. What the heck am I missing? Oh yeah, lobbyists and politicians pushing their green tech pet projects.

I used to love diesels, but the price just keeps going up, it makes me wonder if it is too little too late now. Though given the choice right now between a 4.5L Duramax and a 5.3, I would take the diesel without question. But then it would depend on the price premium for the diesel engine too, and how much better the diesel was with fuel consumption and whether or not it outweighed the $1 per gallon premium for the fuel and the thousands more for the engine. Honestly, I think Ford had the right idea with the EcoBoost. Mercedes and BMW have also adopted that technology and they have been making brilliant diesels for a long time.

@Mark Williams thanks for getting Rick Krantz to ask the "curly" questions at the LA MotorShow.
Good to see Fiat/Chrysler are looking at the very hot global pickup market.
Mark Reuss who was the last US CEO of Holden in Australia,(Most have been Australian with one very dynamic German) has an idea of the market outside the US. He appeared to be shying away from talking about diesels though, smaller capacities, hyrbridization, alternative fuels for the US Colorado. Saying it would do 85-90% of the work a full size pickup.

@Unclebud If Cadillac's diesel works, then expect modern diesels to get over the strange hang up about being "dirty" in the US.
@Lou, the Mongoloid face excuse the unavoidable pun, is styling that works for South East Asia. The Colorado was mainly built for the Asian Market. Australia, South America and South Africa are the other major markets.

@Robert Ryan - my bad. No pun or racial slur meant. I'm not a fan of "corporate faces". What works on a small SUV obviously doesn't work on a truck.

I'd like to see the option of a small diesel. There isn't a big price difference between a VW gasser and diesel, so why can't their be a smaller price gap in a small truck?

In the long run none of this matters. From today's Wall Street Journal .....

"The EPA heaved its weight against another industry this month, issuing a regulation to sharply increase fuel economy. Under this new rule, America's fleet of passenger cars and light trucks will have to meet an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a doubling of today's average of about 27 mpg."

A diesel in GM's Full size SUVs would be excellent! Especially in the 2500 class Suburban/Yukon XL, as they get terrible fuel economy. If it came down to choosing a hybrid Suburban or a diesel, I'd take the diesel any day.

I paid $2.82 a gallon for gasoline yesterday. Diesel was selling at $4.04 a gallon. With the extra cost of the diesel option and more money for oil and filter changes. I do not see the benefit of a diesel.

Mazda's new BT 50 is a case of that 'corporate face" being a total disaster. Mazda have to hide the very much criticized "Face" with a factory installed bullbar. It is not an option in Australia. Lou yes I knew that is what you were trying to convey.

Diesels suck.

TCO - Total cost of ownership for a diesel versus a gasoline engine is not there... nor do I think it will ever even get close with these ridiculous emissions standards.

When you add the cost of Urea, add the cost of standard upkeep, add the cost of higher diesel prices, and the preminum cost of a diesel engine. There is no way you will ever get to break even versus a gas engine.

Wish it was different, but $$$ dont lie.

@DB it is the reverse in Europe and diesels are not that costly here. Virtually all pickups in Asia are diesels. So why they cost that much more in the US is a mystery. Pollution regulations are a red herring to what the real cost is.

Diesel costs more in Europe.

Diesel engines were promoted by car companies because they are more expensive, thus increasing the profit margins.

I think if you're in the States you should be glad you don't have very many of them.

@Greg diesel cars pickups, trucks are everywhere in Europe and Asia. Petrol cars are expensive to run. Gas Trucks are Non -extant outside NA as the cost of running them would be very expensive.

The Dodge looks good but that Colorado is just way too out of proportion. The huge cab and small bed make it look like a bobble-head. And that face... I can't quite place it but i'm sure it's been used for a cartoon insect somewhere. Otherwise, kudos to GM for having the courage to bring a small truck in.

@toycrusher84 Hope it does not look that out of proportion in the metal as it will join the Mazda as "hit with an ugly stick".

Diesel in Europe may still be more than gasoline but on a percentage basis it is only just barely higher not 30% higher like it is here in the US. On top of the marginal cost difference the overall prices of $7-9 per gallon allow for the 20-25% efficiency increases to really start adding up.

Europe also charges registration fees based on CO2 levels and diesels have an inherent advantage over gas. They still cost more to buy but in Europe there are other cost advantages that add up way more quickly than they ever would in the US.

If you want cheaper diesel in the US lobby to have more refining capacity allocated to diesel and also be prepared for the increase in gasoline prices to compensate.

I am with some others on here in that the Ecoboost and other turbo applications will likely be the most prevalent technology here in the US over the coming decade with hybrid tech gaining ground and diesel being stagnant in percentage terms of overall sales.

@mhowarth I think you will be getting eventually increased petrol(gas) prices. How that cost margin works in Thailand, Japan etc is hard to know. Cars outside Europe are mainly petrol. Pickups and Trucks are 95% or higher ,diesel. Trucks are ALL diesel.

diesels may cost more to own over their life, especially with US emission standards and ever increasing fees and such, but you have to factor in the great low end power a diesel provides. Although i guess gas engines are bridging the gap with the ecoboost and other TDI engines, but maybe i'm just a stickler for the power and clank of a diesel. small displacement diesels for half tons would still have at least one buyer in this guy!

I could live with the looks of the Colorado. I might prefer the looks of a Global Ranger but if Chevy is going to bring this into the market it will sell if it is not too overpriced and if the quality is improved over the previous Colorado. If I were driving a vehicle just for looks I would not drive a truck. A truck is a truck a vehicle that I buy for utility. If the fuel economy is decent this will sell. When you are talking about looks have you forgotten about the Pontiac Aztec, the Nissan Cube, the Honda Element, the Honda Ridgline, the boxy Scion, and how about the Kia Soul. The Colorado is much better looking than these vehicles. At least the front is aerodynamic. I would consider this truck for a replacement. All the GM bashers expect everyone to Patriotic Americans and drive around in F-150s or F-250s. Sorry I will not drive a fuel guzzler just because it is an American company. I currently have an S-10 with a 2.2 4 cylinder and five speed manual which has been an above average vehicle for the near 13 years I have owned it. If this truck is half the truck it is with better fuel economy then I would consider it along with Toyota and Nissan. I will see what Ford does, but if its F150 take it or leave it, I will leave it. I am a consumer first not a corporate cheerleader.

Gas isn't going to be a high $2 low $3 much longer.

That's why this options are being explored, for $4 to $5 gas.

Well said Bog Saget. I agree. Gas prices will go up to $4 to $5 a gallon and eventually get higher than that.

My comment was why current gas vs. diesel prices are what they are, not speculation on future costs. If say 40% of oil is refined into diesel and diesel demand goes up the price is going to as well since supply is limited. If we change the mix to 60% diesel then the diesel price should fall but regular gasoline will rise since there will be less of it. This would be nearly instant (assuming you could magically flip a switch to make the changes).

This would help the diesel efficiency advantage be more cost effective but even if diesel was $3 a gallon and you got 20.4 mpg versus 17 (a 20% increase) it would take about 23 years to cover the straight cost of an $8k diesel motor (assuming 12k miles driven per year), no inflation or higher resale value calculated. If a smaller diesel cost half as much it would still take about 12 years to cover the initial costs.

The Ecoboost (or any turbo motor) getting only have the efficiency upgrades (10%) will recoup the costs in 2-3 years.

Which is better for the environment/humans is debatable but the money is with the less expensive boosted motors. I know some will still buy them because they need to load capacity but speaking in general terms the best option is the Ecoboost type route which is exactly what GM, Ford, Chrysler and others have stated.

@mhowarth, $8k premium is what you pay for a giant 800lb/ft engine that is practically exclusive to the US market. There's no scale for these motors, while the smaller motors being developed today are going to have global applications. That should drive down the price for us, and I think it goes in part to explain why VW or Mercedes can get away with a smaller premium. The Mercedes BlueTec is only about a $1500 premium. Well worth it.

And everyone seems to forget that the diesel premium comes back at resale.

As far as fuel prices, it's driven by the government. Here's a fun fact: Did you know that for every $3 you spend on gas, $1 goes towards ethanol production subsidies? There's some tax $$ at work. As long as lobbyists and politicians dictate our fuel supply, our pricing will remain a total cluster.

I understand what your saying UncleBud but since we consumers have to live with the lobbyist and politicians on both sides and OPEC and big oil we have to find ways to save on fuel. Speculators also boast up the price of oil on the futures market along with the growing appetite of developing countries along with India and China. Oil supply will continually go down and oil price will continually go up and the special interests influence will grow.

National average for Gasoline right now is about $3.40 a gallon.
Diesel is around $3.90 a gallon.

That's a 14% difference.

In the HD shootout, Gm's 2500 HD got 14.10mpg with the gas 6.0L.

The Duramax diesel 2500HD got 19.66mpg.

A difference of 39.4%.

So, the diesel is getting about 25.4% better fuel economy even when you control for the difference in price between gas and diesel.

For us, as a business, the diesel is worth it. The initial investment on the diesel engine we typically get back in resale when it comes time to sell the trucks (and I'm sure that price disparity will decrease as gasoline engines become more expensive and small displacement diesels become more available). Oil changes don't cost us any more than usual, as we already buy diesel spec oil in bulk for our heavy equipment (all diesel). Urea is the same way, we buy it in bulk for new class 8 trucks (again, all diesel).

Does that mean it works for everyone? No. But, it would be nice to at least have a choice in something other than a HD pickup truck or chassis cab.

I will save everyone the trouble and say it now... we want the diesel option in our full size half tons. The big 3 are running out of excuses.

@toycrusher Paul Hogan is an Australian actor best known for his role as Michael "Crocodile" Dundee from the Crocodile Dundee film series, for which he won a Golden Globe award.

@Rob Ryan you forgot the seemingly million other Aussie actors. Paul Hogan is VERY VERY Old news

@mechanic I don't know what business you're in but I'm in the timber business and I would clearly state that if you plan to work your equipment, then diesel engines are a necessity. If I were to invent the pickup from scratch, a gas engine would never even cross my mind!!! There's a reason why semis, tractors of all sizes, dozers, etc and pickups in every other corner of the world are all diesel. Diesel is better. Gas engines only belong in sports cars, small lawn equipment and outboard boat motors. Great for small applications, but not at pushing 5000+ pound trucks and trailers down the highway. It's dumb. Those of you who disagree need to go test drive a diesel.

My 2500 Yukon XL has the 6.0 and the only time it has good seat of the pants power is at 4000+ RPM's. Otherwise, it's sluggish and insignificant for a 13 MPG engine. No bueno. Diesel could provide 18+ MPG with twice the power. That's a fact.

Ok so imagine I'm an auto manufacturer... and yes, I make trucks. Obama says I need to raise efficiency. Meanwhile, my customers want a better product. The obvious answer is: diesel!!! Tell him what he's won Bob!!! Ok so the US buyer is cold on diesel. Hmmm, how about a marketing campaign to elevate the image of diesel? Build a world class diesel engine for the American masses and then sell them on it. Not possible, you say? GM sold lots of people on an $8000 hybrid premium that only offers a 3 MPG advantage and cost them capacity at the same time, and how much did THAT cost to develop??? Who cares, the government subsidized it. Crazy. OK I'm done.

@UncleBud as mentioned refinery capacity could be an issue in the US, meeting supplies of ultra low sulfur diesel. Never been a problem here, since the 1970's most pickup and trucks were diesel.

HD diesel pickups are worth it if you can get the lifespan out of them. I know a lot of guys with diesel pickups that are small contractors. They cover some of the extra cost by cheating. They will run road tax exempt diesel in their pickups. It is also simpler for many to run the same fuel and oil in their machine as well as their pickups. These guys often do not do a true cost/benefit analysis on the diesel engine. They just like owning a diesel truck. The local Ford dealer told me that they average a 38 month turn around cycle on new pickup sales. Gas and diesel.
When I look at huge companies that buy fleets, no one in my neighbourhood buys diesel trucks. The truck is dead before the engine is. The resale sucks because the truck has been pounded to death. My brother racks up 60,000 miles in 1 1/2 - 2 years. The company he works for gets a huge discount because they waive the warranty coverage on top of huge fleet discounts. They keep their trucks 3 years or 60,000 miles. Tax amortization, as well as the point of diminishing returns falls into that 3 year 60K marker.
I am puzzled as to why diesel engines are so expensive in NA, well, at least the diesel engines the so-called domestics sell. Like unclebud pointed out - a VW diesel is only 1500 more.
Government intervention - as usual f--ks everything up.
Trust us. We are from the government, and are here to help you.

@Uncle Bud No worries. There is nothing like a leisurely drive in the Outback. Subaru Outback that is. Australia. Yada yada yada. In Europe yada yada yada. Diesel. 1970's. Prices. In Australia Paul Hogan is a legend. Buy disel. Mate.

@Mechanic, that 39% doesn't seem right, I think it is closer to a the diesel getting 28% better.

Gas is now $3.29 and diesel is $3.96.
A 20% difference. Plus the cost of urea.

In the HD shootout, Ram's 2500 HD got 15.04mpg with the gas.

The Ram diesel 2500 HD got 17.20mpg.

A difference of 14.3%.

For us, as a business and a mathmetician, the diesel is not worth it.

I hope that the situation improves in the US/Canada. The problem is for GM, Ford and Chrysler, they never updated their VAN model range based on the HD Pickups . They are now in the embarrassing position of importing diesel Vans from Europe. If they should have done something a lot sooner and they would have probably been in the position of exporting their Vans, rather than importing them.


I thought the Ram 2500 diesel doesn't use Urea, hence why it gets the worst fuel economy of the three?

Dodge is just now looking to see what they can bring to market in the small truck market? That means we won't see something until 2015...

A short, wide, low, 2 door, Big cab 5 seater, RWD pickup truck with a midgate that folds flat into the rear seats would be a huge winner. Something light, but reinforced, that can tow 4000lb and put out about 250hp. Oh yeah, 25mpg city and fits in regular parking space. Give it musle truck looks and deliver with with wide, negative offset rims that support a 13 inch wide tire with no rubbing since that is the mod all us muscle truck heads always want.. :) . IMHO, that truck will movitate a lot of tradeins.

can't wait.

I did not include urea in my Ram calculation for the 2500.

"mechanic" works for Chrysler, and he failed to use the Ram for his calcs. Take a look at the data I posted. He would lose 6% in fuel costs going with diesel over gas.

Even if you were to go with GM and get 20 mpg in a GM diesel and 15 mpg in a GM gas truck, that is only $478 in savings a year.

It would take you a long time to make up that engine cost.

On resale and mainteance costs, I quote, "Traditionally, diesel truck buyers purchased their trucks assuming the lower operational costs of diesel versus gas, better performance and higher resale value would eventually recoup the initial premium paid for the oil burning option. But the current 80 cent price gap between gas and diesel, plus costs added by new emissions requirements, make it unlikely new diesel truck buyers will ever reach a break-even point financially, unless they are towing the biggest loads that can’t be pulled with a gas engine."

Mechanic cited empty mpg calcs so he is pulling nothing and does not need a HD diesel to pull the biggest loads that can't be pulled with a gas engine.

This is a good read.

Diesel Truck Demand and Resale Values Drop Dramatically:

As a '11 Duramax owner, I'd caution people against getting too excited about diesels in half-tons. Google the forums for DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) problems, DPF (diesel particulate filter) problems, regeneration, federally mandated limp mode, and disappointing MPGs and you will see that the grass is not always greener.

@ eplummer

i agree with that it seems a lot of guys here do not understand what is going on with diesel emissions they do not get as good FE as we think and the cost of owning one, if you tow a lot it is a different story, it not just one brand either all of the big 3 are struggling to make a good diesel with the tough restrictions that are being handed down from the EPA

Again, please, build a fuel efficient diesel Tahoe that can tow. I'll buy one. 25mpg + commuting and competent towing to ~ 7500lbs or so and I'm there. I'd love a VW touareg TDI, but I'd rather spend it at an American car store. The diesel Jeep G.C. might scoop it though.

@Eplummer and @Dan the Man. as I have said before diesel is behind the eight ball in the US. Exact opposite situation outside the US. Everything favours diesel for towing and fuel economy in pickups and trucks

@ Robert Ryan

i remember 10 years ago Ford (7.3 Stoke) and Dodge (cummins) it was nothing to hear guys getting 21 to 25 MPG's on the highway, 250's and 2500's, now they are lucky to get 18 to 19 MPG's Highway and now the diesel are so complicated and unreliable because of all the sensors that surround the so call emissions BS

@Dan the Man Same thing has happened here, but I guess they have more experience and handled it a lot better.

The new diesel emission controls look like they're going through the same growing pains that gasoline emission controls did back in the 70s. Remember EGR valves that robbed so much power you disconnected them? Troubleshooting carburetors that had a dozen vacuum hoses attached? The gasoline stuff has come a long way and I expect the diesel stuff will too...

The new diesel emission controls look like they're going through the same growing pains that gasoline emission controls did back in the 70s. Remember EGR valves that robbed so much power you disconnected them? Troubleshooting carburetors that had a dozen vacuum hoses attached? The gasoline stuff has come a long way and I expect the diesel stuff will too...
Posted by: 92 F250 | Nov 29, 2011 2:35:08 PM

yea i think so to give it time and they will figure it out but at who's cost, we did the DPF delete on our two '08 Ford's and they run a lot better also better FE

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