Jerry Flint for President?

In response to Jerry Flint's column (see WAW — July '07, p.48), once again, you have cleverly taken both sides, covering all the bases. That way no matter how things work out, you will look like a guru. This is a great tactic for a liberal politician.

Perhaps you should run for President in '08. Your slogan could be “a pot for every chicken.”
William D. Kraus
St. Louis, MO

Diesel Pays Off

Jerry Flint's piece on the hope and promise of Detroit cranking out more energy-efficient vehicles (see WAW — Aug. '07, p.48) has it mostly right. I have been selling the hope, the promise and the future for clean diesel technology for the last five years, and GM, Chrysler, Ford and others are now positioning to sell more diesels in the U.S.

But the skepticism about the premium price for a new diesel (up to $5,000) and how many buyers will step forward is not supported by the facts. According to data obtained from R.L. Polk and Co. for the Diesel Technology Forum, 2.8 million buyers of medium-duty pickups between 2000 and 2006 weren't scared off by the premium for a diesel.

That's 67% of consumers buying a medium-duty truck picking the diesel over gasoline. And looking at your editorial in the same edition, it so happens that three of the top five best-selling vehicles are these same pickup trucks, which bodes well for the potential of a light-duty diesel offering in those categories.

We should not kid ourselves about the cost for any of these new fuel-efficient technologies — not just the diesel option. They all will and do cost more.

But the old saying — “you get what you pay for” — is especially relevant for pickup truck diesels, because paying the premium pretty much guarantees you'll be getting more fuel economy, greater towing capacity, more durability and proven higher resale values. The diesel pays you back.
Allen Schaeffer
Executive Director
Diesel Technology Forum
Frederick, MD

Hook, Line and Sinker

You've swallowed the Detroit line about nobody wanting fuel-efficient trucks (see WAW — Aug. '07, p.5). There are large numbers of folks who want fuel-efficient vehicles. I myself have bought many new 4-cyl. and diesel vehicles over the years.

What really aggravates me is that auto makers don't offer upgrades to basic truck engines. You can't buy a new Chevy Silverado equipped with a fuel-efficient 4.3L V-6 or 4.8L V-8 (with a cam phaser and cylinder deactivation). GM offers these fuel efficiency goodies only on its big 5.3L, 6.0L and 6.2L V-8s. Likewise, GM doesn't offer a manual transmission on the Silverado. So equipped, '08 Silverados could hit 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) highway, and without the hybrid premium price.

GM's not the only culprit. Ford could have offered the 4.5L diesel from its Class 4 and 5 LCF trucks in the F-150. Why not? I'd trade in today for any fullsize 25-mpg pickup.
Mike Thayer
Weymouth, MA

I agree with your assessment of the American auto consumer relative to auto/truck mpg. However, I disagree with your assessment of the market after the 35-mpg (6.7 L/100 km) fleet requirement.

The smart companies will focus on the fuel economy of vehicles that can give them the best score (volume-mpg) and then limit the sales of the larger vehicles by price (more profit!).

This mix will make them more competitive as fuel prices continue to climb, but give them some room for high-profit vehicles. Also, some engine technologies will make the larger vehicles more fuel efficient and can be a key technology shift. Hybrid versions, cylinder deactivation, etc., will allow much higher fuel economy on larger vehicles.

The key is the three domestic auto makers have to learn how to make a high-mpg car that people want, and that they can be profitable.
Glenn Kowalske
Dearborn, Mi

A few comments and a brief question regarding the ongoing saga to improve gas mileage in today's vehicles. I own an '06 Chevy Impala (3.5L V-6) and during highway travel my vehicle achieves an incredible 33 mpg (7 L/100 km). At about 70 mph (112 km/h), the tachometer reads only 1,850 rpm, with this 4-speed automatic transmission.

However, my wife's '07 Hyundai Santa Fe (3.3L V-6) can only achieve about 22 mpg (10.6 L/100 km) at about 70 mph, with the tach reading 2,300 rpm. My daughter's '07 Pontiac G6 (2.4L I-4) is getting an acceptable 24 mpg (9.7 L/100 km), with the tach reading 2,150 rpm at 70 mph. Finally, my Impala achieves about 22 mpg during city driving.

If GM can develop a 3.5L V-6, with a 4-speed automatic, then install it in a large vehicle to achieve low rpms and higher fuel economy, why can't this technology be mandated for all domestic and overseas vehicle manufacturers?
Norm Arnold
Commerce Township, MI

I care about fuel economy and power in a truck, but what options are on the market? None. Any truck that can really haul has a V-8 or something bigger. Diesel seems to be the panacea to the world, but I suggest a far less expensive alternative that has yet to come to market: a supercharged V-6.

Nissan tried supercharging with a 4-cyl., but it was still a small truck. Cadillac has a supercharger on the Northstar V-8, but it's still not an economic alternative to the other big engines out there.

But what if they made a supercharged V-6 Tahoe, Suburban or Silverado? I'm asking for this in a fullsize truck, not a wanna-be midsize imposter. The fuel economy of a 6-cyl. with the torque and power of a V-8 would make me move for such a truck. Why all the emphasis on valve deactivation or diesel salvation for a vehicle that only needs to pull its weight plus a little more without much high technology and cost?
Paul Petersen
Athens, GA

Nice article, but were you using only gasoline as a measure? How about diesel? Seems that if a Freightliner Sprinter can get 25 mpg, maybe the same thing could happen in the pickup area. Maybe even a simple thing such as gear ratio and transmission changes could help. A new U.S. diesel comparable to the Mercedes in the Sprinter would help.

On the other hand I don't think the auto companies really want to do what needs to be done. There has to be a will to develop new technology. They certainly have the means to do it if they wanted to.

It would take an alliance of the Big 3 to pool all their R & D to develop the new hardware for an engine and fuel system. If a Class 8 tractor-trailer pulling 75,000 lbs. (34,020 kg) can get 7 mpg (33.5 L/100 km) or better, I would think it could be done with a 6,000-lb. (2,721-kg) pickup.

One of the problems we have with emissions is every time they are tightened, fuel economy goes down. This is evident with Class 8 trucks: 2007 just caused a big hit in economy because of the new standard. When 2010 comes around, the exhaust going out will be literally cleaner than the air going in.
Ken Rose
Tigard, OR

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