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. 


I wouldn't touch a diesel unless I was going to work my truck hard, day in day out pulling heavy.
What I find puzzling is this:
Why can European automakers make diesels for the USA and charge a mild premium, but the domestics need to soak the consumer for their diesels?
What are they doing right?

Name one diesel pickup truck that European automakers make for the USA that is a mild premium.

There isn't one.

They make some cars for puttering around, but not full-size diesel pickup trucks.

When you make diesels for trucks the costs go way up and the fuel econ goes way down (see what Mahindra tried to do - their diesel got 21 mpg.)

I agree with you that I wouldn't buy a diesel unless I was going to work it hard day in and out.

I also checked out which lists all the suvs & "trucks" that are vailable in diesel. These are the starting prices and mpg figures...

Mercedes ML350
27 mpg

VW Touareg

26 mpg

Mercedes R350
23 mpg

Audi Q7
25 mpg

Mercedes GL350
21 mpg

Where are the mild prices? Where are the mild price diesel "trucks" that the smart Euros are giving that the Americans can't deliver? Ooops.

They are way, way over the cost of what the "I want a cheap" diesel truck buyers are talking about and the mileage is not impressive at all.

@Tony we get bargain basement diesels Pickups at $19,000 dollars. They are some of the cheapest things on the road. The Japanese/ Thais etc make the cheap diesels. What you listed is Luxury European SUV's they are not going to be cheap.

@Jason , Correct the Japanese, Chinese and other Asian countries do very cheap diesels otherwise the bulk of SE Asia could not afford to buy them.

@Lou, The Europeans are NOT going to sell cheap anything to the US.

@ Lou,
The diesels they make for the US(European ones) are not cheap. The massive number of diesels they make for everyday use (Car, Van etc) are relatively cheap. Volume production and considerable demand keeps prices down.

@Robert Ryan - true, if Ford and many "global" players can build cheeper global diesels, what is stopping them from producing them in NA?? Emission standards aren't that far apart?
I talk about cheep in relation to the 8-10k premium for HD pickup engines. I'd buy a Freightliner with a Cummins before a 1 ton p/u if I needed pulling power and longevity. Many ambulance fleets,and commercial service fleets have already gone that route.
I can't see why a NA compact truck diesel should cost more than a premium gasser. The only way I see diesels selling in pickups is if a compact is around 1,000 - 1,500, and a 1/2 ton diesel 3-4,000 dollars. Even then I doubt that they would sell well.
Compacts have gotten significantly larger. That is why I think the only way these "global" trucks will sell in NA is if the domestics get rid of any overlap with the full sized trucks.
If they are not prepared to do that, then I can see why Ford has chosen not to bring in the T6. Why bother. It falls into the same market range as the F150.
What market is the Colorado going after?
I bet the Colorado becomes another sales divider like Sierra and Silverado. GMC will end up with a 3 way sales split.
I want to see how that plays out for GMC, and I bet so does Ford.

@Tony & Jason, Too many believe the lies and half truths about Euro diesel engines. Thank you for doing the research to refute the bogus attacks on American companies.

@Dave- try you will fit right in. I do.

My theory is lack of large capacity diesel refineries for NA. Seeing that the bulk of vehicles are gas powered, it makes sense that most production would be slanted towards (petrol) gas. It explains to some degree why diesel, which should be cheaper, is much dearer in NA. Here they use a fair bit of diesel and therefore the price differential is not so great. Maybe sometime down the track, the situation in NA may improve.

I do think that changing over to low sulpher diesel probably has effected the price of diesel. At most gas pumps in my region diesel is about 10 cents a litre more than gas. (38 cents US gallon more). There are many commercial card lock stations and bulk plants around that will sell diesel more cheeply. There isn't any sound rationale for diesel being more pricy because just a few short years ago, diesel was always cheeper than gas.

Emission standards aren't that far apart?

European emissions rules allow a diesel to emit up to 0.29 grams of nitrous oxide (NOx) per mile — which is about what the typical diesel school bus or trash truck emitted 5 years ago.

US regulations on the other hand, only allow a diesel to emit 0.07 grams of NOx per mile, making compliance a costly effort.

There is one reason you don't see more diesels...


Diesel vehicles put out more black sooty particulate matter (PM) and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emissions, which lead to smog and adverse health effects...

The California Air Resources Board, as a result, has put higher regulation standards on diesel vehicle emissions than the EPA!

As a result...very few vehicles meet both CARB and EPA clean diesel standards and only VW, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, and makers of a few heavy-duty trucks have entered the U.S. market!

Well, said oxi. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that the European market and the American market is comparing apples to oranges and they shouldn't be compared...besides fuel costs $7-$8 a gallon over there....there is no bargain.

SUV's sold here are $50k to $60k and up with diesels. The price of the diesel is already factored in and the great mpg is there not there.....

I can get 30 mpg in a gas SUV. That beats all of those diesels mpg listed above and is cheaper to buy and cheaper to drive!

Thank you United States of America...

I agree with oxi...

American made gas trucks for the win...

Great post!

I also agree with oxi...

Great post as usual...

George, Fred, Tony, Jason, how many Oxi's are there? And we all thought Bob had multiple personality issues...

@Oxi . No , not just the European diesels listed, but cheaper Japanese Truck diesels meet US tier standards(Hino, Isuzu and Fuso). Smog exists in all countries not just the US and should be a huge problem in congested Europe. but it is not .
On the other hand US Diesels DO NOT meet the current Euro V, standard and a company cannot import US HD diesel Pickups into Europe, Australia or NZ. US Diesels do not meet the C02, C0 and particulates (Smog ingredient) requirements. You can import privately US Diesel pickups but the numbers are limited.
@Fred they are getting 40-50mpg US with diesels, that includes luxury cars . The Jaguar got 52mpg in the cross country run across the US. In Asia owning diesels a whole lot less costly.

Exactly what I was referring too. In trying to produce ULSD
the US needs to lift refinery capacity to bring down the retail price of diesel. Diesel logically should be vastly cheaper than the more processed petrol, but lack of supply forces that price up in NA.

Ryan, I don't care what the cars are getting (this is or what one person got on a trip across county. Diesels in other continents are not the same as in the US!

The only way to compare it reliably is to look at the numbers for the SUV's/trucks section

All are 21 to 27 mpg for diesel.

Stick it!

@Fred they would get 40mpg US with a 3 Litre diesel Pickup. Ecoboost is not going to get that.

I looked at the USA spec vehicles that Tony listed.
He is only showing part of the picture. Robert Ryan already pointed out that he listed luxury SUV's.
Here is the rest of the story.

Mercedes Benz ML350
gasser - price $48,990
3.5 L V6, 302 HP/273 lb/ft torque 22 mpg Hwy.
diesel - price $50,490
3 L V6, 240 hp/455 lb/ft torque 27 mpg highway
Price premium over gas - $1,500
MPG advantage - 5 mpg

Mercedes Benz R350
gasser - price $52,690
3.5 L V6 302 hp/273 lb/ft torque 21 mpg highway
diesel - price $53,840
3.0 L V6 210 hp 400 lb/ft torque 23 mpg highway
price premium over gas - $1,150
MPG advantage - 2 mpg

Mercedes Benz GL350 - only available in a diesel
3.0 V6 210 hp 398 lb/ft torque 0 60 mph 9.1 seconds

VW Touareg
gasser - price $42,975
3.0 L V6 280 HP 265 lb/ft torque 23 mpg highway
diesel - price $46,475
3.0 V6 225 hp 406 lb.ft torque 28 mpg highway
price premium over gas - $3,500
MPG advantage - 5 mpg

Audi Q7
gasser - price $46,250
3L V6 280 hp 295 lb/ft torque 22 mpg highway
diesel - price 51,450
3 L V6 225 hp 406 lb/ft torque 25 mpg highway
price premium over gas - $5,200
MPG advantage - 3 mpg

gasser - price $47,500
3 L V6 265 hp 300 lb/ft torque 23 mpg highway
diesel - price $51,800
3 L V6 265 hp 425 lb/ft torque 26 mpg highway
price premium over gas - $4,300
MPG advantage - 3 mpg

The average price premium for diesel engines in this group $3,130 dollars.
The mpg advantage averages 3.6 mpg.

Look at the huge torque advantage of those diesels.

I do not think that European diesels already present in NA are unreasonably priced.(read overpriced or expensive) They are in the price range I would find acceptable.
MPG is acceptable as well.
The kicker is the torque. Would you be willing to pay more for that kind of torque?
These engines do compare to the EB 3.5. I think that a domestic diesel with comparable power levels to these "Euro" diesels would do well in a big and heavy full sized 1/2 ton. They would be incredible in a smaller global Ranger or Colorado.

Ram and Nissan - the ball is in your court!

@Fred - compare diesel and gas engines offered by European auto makers currently in the USA.
Top Gear UK has 3 typical complaints about NA vehicles:
1. Poor handling
2. Poor interiors
3. Poor power to displacement ratio's.

The Euro-diesels would do just fine in light pickups.

One thing I've noticed about almost all those luxury SUVs that offer both a gas and diesel version is that the gasoline versions recommend premium gasoline....which often costs the same as or more than diesel.

With that being the case, the diesel makes a lot of sense in those SUVs.

@paul810 - there is a place for small diesels. Considering the profits big companies are making on pickups, they can afford it.

Most people drive way more truck than they need, and the US consumer just keeps demanding bigger and bigger. How can you make a vehicle get decent mileage when it weighs as much as a tank and has the aerodynamic profile of a brick whether it is diesel or gasoline? Diesel is not going to fix that, especially with the current emissions.

I understand no one wants to hear this, but our trucks are huge people, and many in fact need them like that and their capabilities, but many do not. It takes alot of energy to get a 6K pound half ton truck moving, doesn't matter what engine it has in it.

When I was a kid in the 80's and 90's, seems people were a bit more practical in their purchases. It seems now, that lots of people purchase a large land barge with the intent on driving it back and forth to your office job and towing a 40+ft trailer with it twice a year. We have those people at our job right now, but they are also the same ones with that "entitlement" mentality to cheap fuel and complain about the ever so slightest increase in fuel....but they have exclaimed several times that our midsize sedan is useless! What? I don't complain about the price of fuel!

I know this comes off as crass, I have a really clean,nice older F150 myself with the largest engine they offered in it at the time of production (1992 W/5.8L ......with a serious drinking problem), but in no way would I use this type of vehicle to commute more than 20 miles each way to work (many travel much more than this). Actually, I could not imagine using any one of todays large trucks/SUV's for back and forth travel to work where the capabilities are NOT NEEDED for more than a 30 mile round trip (I enphasize "needed" as many do NEED the capability).... and then complain about the price of fuel or whine about the lousy mileage their truck/SUV get.

One day, we are going to understand that Oil is a finite resource and that it is getting harder and harder to extract (think fracking, why would they do this is if was just "oozing out of every orfice" in the earth nad very plentiful?). Not to mention, there is a everso growing middle class of people that want what we have, and have our old manufacturing jobs to support said wants thanks to our greed for more and more dollars and cheap bargain basement junk!

Sorry, but 50 years from now, our large trucks will be in the history books and a newer crop of smaller trucks/SUV's will emerge .... possibley diesel powered (what about CUV's?, maybe they make these because people are shifting from the suburbans to FWD based platforms for FUEL MILEAGE).... and quite frankly, I cannot wait. :)

Lou: you speak of a large torque advantage, but how much MORE torque do we need? Seriously?

I am not being a smartass or anything, but I always hear this hunger for more power and torque, but when is enough? We have a numbers game going here, my old 1996 RCSB 4.9L XL F150 with a 5 speed, highway gears would push 22 MPG driving decent speeds (under 75) and seemed more than adequate, but some how that truck would seem lethargic in todays terms. But, weighing 4500 lbs, 4.9L of displacement, low tech pushrod I6 would still slab out ~ 270 lb ft torque below 3K, was very very reliable, and would still eek out 22 mpg all day long if tuned up and driven like an adult. I really question have we taken a step backwards to be honest.

A 2.8-3.5 litre diesel (litre for our Canadian and Australian friends lol) would provide MORE than enough power for a half tonne truck if it in fact wieghed a 1000 lbs less. We need to attack this FE issue from more than one angle IMHO, but no one wants to drive a truck they feel is "inferior" due to less torque or bulk. We place way to much emphasis on numbers and how fast it will get to 60, than haveing the COMPLETE great package.

I think: Shrink the EcoBoost displacement down to ~ 2.8L, keep all the same tech in place on it, put it in a crew cab F100 sized truck that weighed in ~ 4200-4500 lbs, and I could see us getting to that 25-26 MPG threshold.
I think Gasoline engines are great, especially with newer tech out like the EcoBoost and Variable Cam phasing. The roads are there, they have done great with transmissions and engines , now attack the wieght issue of most trucks (not 1+ ton trucks, they need the wieght and brute stregnth much more than the average full size truck buyer).

Red 4 X 4 We do have "bigger is better too" mentality with some people These photos are from some US Pickups that are just driven around, all of them diesel. Others are into exotic European Sportscars, they are not Blue Collar like these fellows.

This fellow has a red utility trailer so he does not get the bed dirty.

A raised Off Road version, it is very clean.

I was pointed out the torque advantage of the engines in the luxury SUV's that Tony had listed. He had made the list to present a biased argument against "Euro" diesels. I presented the rest of the information to show the opposite. The engines in those SUV's are all 3 litre V6 engines. They all put out around 400 lb/ft of torque which is comparable to the EB 3.5 and most gasser V8's of almost double the displacement. They all put out at least 3 mpg better than a gasser equivalent.
I'd rather see the auto makers come out with diesel engines in the 3-4 litre range than the behemoths we are seeing in the HD trucks.
I'm amazed by the number of 1 ton duallies I see running around empty Monday to Friday just to pull a camper once a month.
I'd be more likely to consider buying a 1/2 ton or global compact with a 3L V6 diesel than a 6.7 litre beast.

@Lou Modern common rail diesels put out a staggering amount of torque for their capacity. The engine in a Sprinter is far from cutting edge, but it manages to out perform 6 Litre(Not 6.8 V10 Triton) gas engines in Class B and C motorhomes.
This is a Winnebago Via a small Class A it is 25ft and 5 inches long, GVWR of 11,000lbs and GCVWR of 15,250lbs, Sprinter engine.

A Local Motorhome maker Sunliner just had a fellow do roughly 185,000 miles around Australia using a 3 Litre 27ft European chassis Motorhome . The rig was almost as good as new. Motorhome, engine and chassis held up well

Thanks Robert Ryan for the photos. You have got to remember though, even though a 3.0 Litre diesel would perform astoundingly well here in the states, people would complain because they are not "fast enough". I am serious, look on here how many people make a stink about how FAST their truck is , and are willing to give up their first born to make sure they have the scratch to "beat the next guy" to the light.

I would LOVE to see a 3 litre diesel here in the USA (as lou mentioned) in a half ton platform, but it isn't going to happen. Look on here, all the yahoos keep talking about is "mini cummins 5.0L v8" or the 4.4 powerstroke, or the 4.5 duramax for our overbloated, over engineered half ton trucks.

I disagree with most on this, these engines should be base models in larger capacity trucks like 1 ton duty trucks. The current diesels should be the premium engine in them. It really is SAD how power hungry people have gotten with their trucks, even though they most likely don't need or will SELDOMLY need that 800 lb/ft of torque. a 2.8-3.2 litre diesel would perform well in today's half ton truck with decent mileage, but weight needs to be shaved off of our trucks.

No need for trucks to be over engineered like they are today. A half ton truck is a .75 ton of just a decade ago, no need for this IMHO. I don't see the status quo changing anytime soon, but I can only hope.

I am in no way meaning to bag on my fellow Americans, but would sure like to see us get back to some type of practicality. One can only hope.......

Red 4X4 Automotive companies sell dreams as well as vehicles.. The fastest Pickup in the US, is replaced by 400-500hp car/ute like a Maloo in Australia. A car/ute does not need 400hp to be effective.



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