Chrysler Group’s Ram brand plans to sell a half-ton pickup later this year with a diesel engine — its first such offering since 1978.
The 3.0-liter, V-6 turbodiesel from Italian engine maker VM Motori will be mated to the automaker’s eight-speed transmission this fall for the 2014 model year, Chrysler said. The combination will be identical to one offered in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee that achieves highway fuel economy above 30 mpg.
“Truck owners have been emphatically asking for it, and Ram will be the only manufacturer to offer a diesel powertrain in the half-ton segment,” Fred Diaz, head of the Ram brand, said in a statement.
This will be Chrysler’s first light-duty pickup with a diesel-engine variant since the start of the Lee Iacocca era. General Motors phased out a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V-8 half-ton pickup in 1999.
Ram has been spotted testing a diesel-powered Ram 1500 several times on Michigan roadways over the past six months. Diesel engines regularly achieve higher fuel economy with better torque than gasoline-powered engines. However, the gasoline-powered 2013 Ram 1500 already boasts best-in-class fuel economy of 25 mpg highway.
In the Grand Cherokee, the 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine from VM Motori produces 240 horses and 420 pound-feet of torque. The diesel engine could be tuned differently to handle the heavier Ram 1500. For 2013, the Ram 1500 is available with either a 3.6-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8 or a 5.7-liter V-8 gasoline engine. Diesel engines are available only in heavy-duty pickup variants.
The 2014 Ram 1500 is scheduled to enter production in July. Pricing hasn’t been announced.
Chrysler is pushing to sustain a U.S. sales streak now at 34 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Chrysler’s pickup and commercial brand reengineered its entire pickup lineup for the 2013 model year, adding fuel-efficient 8-speed transmissions and making other improvements.
As a result, Ram’s market share among full-sized pickups has risen from 14.8 percent in 2010 to 17.9 percent in 2012, according to the Automotive News Data Center.