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Despite GM having exited the medium duty market, Ford isn’t resting on its laurels. It’s F-650 and F-750 chassis cabs, which are primarily used for towing and commercial grade hauling work are receiving a few updates. One of the most significant is the adoption of the 6.8-liter V-10 found in the lighter Super Duty trucks (F-250-F-550) for the 2012 model year. According to Len Deluca, Director of Ford’s Commercial Truck Sales and Marketing, the addition of the V-10 will be “welcome news to many business and municipalities,” while providing a wider range of powertrain options and solutions than Ram, Navistar, Isuzu and Hino (to name a few) currently offer in the Class 6 and 7 truck market.
For use in the medium duty Ford trucks, the V10 will be rated at 362 horsepower at 4750 rpm and 457 ft-lbs of torque at 3250. This enables gross vehicle weight ratings on these trucks to range from 20,000 up to a substantial 30,000 lbs, making them highly suitable for a range of different uses, from flatbed recovery vehicles to Fire Department use and short haul delivery runs. Teamed with the V10 is a version of Ford’s six-speed automatic TorqShift transmission, which features a powdered metal carrier in the planetary gearset for extra strength and increased torque capacity (some 735 ft-lbs), plus dual overdrive gears to aid fuel economy and a Live Drive Power Take Off (PTO) than can power such features as snow plows, salt spreaders and dump bodies directly off the crankshaft while the engine is running, no matter what speed the vehicle is traveling.
Alongside the V10/six-speed combo, Ford announced that it will be also offering an alternative fuels prep package for the 2012 Medium Duty trucks, following on from the smaller Super Duty rigs. This version of the V10 will incorporate hardened valves and seats for better wear resistance from gaseous fuels like Compressed Natural and Liquified Petroleum Gas. Ford has announced that the 2012 Class 6 and 7 chassis cabs will go on sale during the fourth quarter of 2011.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
Given that it’s long been the preferred supplier of vehicles to taxi fleets, Ford has offered a Compressed Natural Gas option on its Crown Victoria for years. More recently, it has expanded the availability of CNG and LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) options to its larger commercial vehicles, namely the E-Series vans (of which it has already shipped some 3000 conversions) Transit Connect and most recently, the F-450 and F-550 Super Duty chassis cab trucks.
At the annual Ford Fleet Product and Business Conference on June 7, the company presented the details of its new fuel conversion option, which will be available on F-450 and F-550 trucks powered by the 6.8-liter V10 engine. Making the CNG/LPG option easier is the fact that the V10 already comes with hardened exhaust valves and seats that can withstand gaseous fuels.
Because around 97 percent of natural gas is domestically produced in the United States and there are available government tax credits for commercial fleet operators that convert their vehicles to run on alternative fuels, the F-450/550 gas conversion is likely to prove very popular.
Ford will provide calibration guidance to recommended CNG/LPG conversion specialists for the Super Duty chassis cabs, much in the same manner that programs are in place for the E-Series and small Transit Connect. By adhering to the guidelines and bulletins issued by Ford, the converted trucks will be able to maintain their full factory warranties.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
Hot on the heels of announcing impressive payload and towing figures for its Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra Heavy-Duty trucks; General Motors has stated that it is seriously looking to re-enter the medium duty truck market. Last year, the General exited this segment, winding down production of its Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick class 5-7 trucks, after deals to sell the medium-duty business to Isuzu and Navistar International fell through.
However, in an about turn, it looks like the General might return to the segment. According to Joyce Mattman, Director of GM’s Commercial Vehicle operations, there are several different strategies that could be taken. One is to go after the class 5/6 market, in which the Kodiak and TopKick competed, but another is to go for the class 4/5 segment, the realm of 1-ton chassis cabs, which are popular with small delivery firms and contractors. “We’ve competed in class 4 before,” says Mattman. “Our C3500 HD was popular and the thing our customers liked about it, was that it had a light-duty pickup cab and they could get between houses and down alleys for deliveries and utility work, places where many traditional medium-duty trucks can’t.”
Given that Ford and Ram already compete in the 4/5 category with their F-450 and 4500 chassis cab rigs, a GM entry would seem a no-brainer, aided by the fact that such a truck could use much of the existing Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra HD hardware. In the meantime with a sizable void in the market, GM commercial dealers are doing what they can to survive, selling left-over Kodiak and TopKick vehicles to those customers who still want a medium-duty GM truck.