U-M conference participants had a chance to take a ride on what DaimlerChrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are doing battle over: the Army's new Light Tactical Wheeled Vehicle (LTWV).

Both COMBATT (Commercially Based Tactical Truck) vehicles roll off the same line as their civilian brothers, the Ford F-350 and Dodge Ram 2500, but each get military treatment upon enlistment, donning flat olive drab paint and an assortment of suspension upgrades and electronics modifications.

The payoff for these vehicles is less cost for taxpayers. Exact figures aren't available, but the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) says the pair cost about $50,000 each with all the modifications compared to $65,000 for the standard issue HMMWV. TACOM anticipates other cost savings by using DC or Ford's existing parts distribution network and logistics to reduce inventories during peacetime.