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2014 GMC Denali Rides Upscale Trend in Truck Market

Rugged utility in a luxury package.

by on Nov.11, 2013

With the 2014 GMC Sierra Denali, the maker set out to prove a rugged, capable truck could also deliver a luxury driving experience.

One trend that’s giving Detroit’s Big Three automakers a real lift is that their most loyal customers are now buying more expensive, luxury oriented pickup trucks.

The trend began in Texas but sales of pickup trucks with price tags beyond $40,000 now account for more than a third of all pickup trucks sold across the United States.

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That’s created a big opportunity for the all-new 2014 GMC Sierra Denali. While it shares its new platform and powertrains with more plebian versions of the ’14 Sierra pickup, the new Denali boasts a decidedly more luxurious interior that is equal to what you might expect to find in a similarly-price luxury sedan – as well as advanced safety equipment, such as lane departure warning, along with new connectivity tools.


First Drive: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Ram’s big pickup gets a major boost from diesel power.

by on Sep.23, 2013

The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the first half-ton full-size pickup to offer a diesel option.

The Ram 1500 pickup truck has built a solid reputation for reliability, refinement and power – landing critical kudos earlier this year by winning North American Truck of the Year against a solid list of competitors. Add a favorable review from Consumer Reports, which has never been terribly impressed by vehicle built by the Chrysler Group, and the Ram pickup has plowed through the competition lately, picking up sales and market share seemingly every month.

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But the brass at the Chrysler Group also seemed to have learned that if you’re not moving forward, you’re actually standing still — or worse, losing ground. So this fall, they have elected to become the first full-line manufacturer to equip a full-size pickup truck with a diesel option — the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – something the competition is only just beginning to hint about.

The timing probably couldn’t be better considering the growing interest in this high-mileage, high-torque technology. Diesels, in general, have been gaining ground, though largely under the hoods of various German luxury imports. But “oil burners” offer some potentially significant advantages for truck buyers.


First Drive: 2014 Toyota Tundra

If at first you don’t succeed…

by on Jul.30, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Tundra family.

It’s been a big year for Detroit’s Big Three automakers, and while the overall upturn of the U.S. market has helped them score gains in everything from hybrid to compacts to midsize sedans, nothing has buoyed their market share and bottom line more than the revival of pickup truck demand.

No surprise, Toyota is eying that market with envious ambition. The Japanese maker has long dominated the compact truck market with its Tacoma model, but despite repeated attempts, Toyota has failed to crack the code on the bigger – and traditionally more domestic-loyal full-size pickup segment.

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It seemed to have a winner in hand when the Toyota Tundra went through a major redesign six years ago, but after an initial burst of growth sales collapsed.  To be fair, the entire full-size truck market collapsed, declining by roughly half during the depths of the Great Recession, but Toyota is now lagging the pickup rebound and is anxious to regain momentum with the Tundra redesign it’s bringing to market for the 2014 model-year.


Ford Slings Mud – and Rocks – at Ram With New F-150 Tremor

New sport-truck opts for higher-mileage Ford EcoBoost V-6.

by on Jun.27, 2013

Ford targets younger, hipper sport-truck buyers with the 2014 F-150 Tremor.

Just because you want to tear things up doesn’t mean you have to swizzle a lot of gas – not with Ford’s new F-150 Tremor.

The new sport-truck due into showrooms this autumn will opt for Ford’s EcoBoost which the maker claims can deliver V-8 power but V -6 fuel economy.

“The new Tremor gives F-150 customers yet another option to drive a highly capable, distinctive performance truck with features typically found only in the aftermarket,” said Brian Bell, F-150 product marketing manager, during the new truck’s unveiling on Thursday.

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The debut of the regular cab, short-bed Tremor took many by surprise.  Ford has fed the market for pickups with all manner of variants in recent years, but it wasn’t expected to come up with another spin-off until after an all-new version of the F-Series was scheduled for launch in late 2014.


First Look: 2013 Ford F-Series

A new crop of trucks.

by on Jun.05, 2012

Ford's 2013 F-150 Lariat displays its new grille.

By most measures, it should be a tough year for the full-size pickup truck market.  Yet even when fuel prices were running at near-record levels, earlier this spring, demand for the big rigs was running hot.  And that means Ford may be perfectly timed for the introduction of its updated 2013 F-Series line.

The 2013 pickups won’t see near as dramatic an update as they did in recent years but there are some notable revisions, nonetheless, including some bold new grilles, added technologies and an all-new luxury model dubbed the Limited.

Ford pulled the covers off the new 2013 F-Series models during a conference of the Future Farmers of America, in Bruceville, Texas.  No surprise, perhaps, as the agricultural community has traditional been one of the strongest markets for full-size pickups.

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“Farm families have always represented an important F-Series truck constituency,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck group marketing manager and FFA sponsor board member. “For these multitasking customers, a Ford pickup means family transportation, economic livelihood, rugged capability and reliability. Like FFA, Ford pickups are an enduring agricultural tradition, and we are delighted to join forces with them to reveal the new F-150 models.”


GM Readying Next-Generation Pickups

Flint plant investment a critical first step.

by on Jul.19, 2011

GM will invest $328 million in the Flint truck plant to prepare for the next-generation of pickups, such as this Chevy Silverado HD.

General Motors is moving ahead with plans for its next-generation pickup trucks by investing $328 million at its sprawling truck assembly plant in Flint. GM officials said quite distinctly that the money will go to the updated, full-frame pick-ups but declined to say when exactly it would reach the company’s show rooms.

“This investment will allow us to continue building award-winning full-size pickups that offer better fuel efficiency than ever before without sacrificing features and functionality,” said Cathy Clegg, GM vice president of labor relations.

“We remain committed to providing customers the utility and capability of our world-class, full-size pickups,” she added.

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GM didn’t say when the new trucks, which are expected to provide significantly better fuel economy, will be available in showrooms. But our frequent contributor, Mike Levine, of, advises us the pickups are likely to begin moving down the assembly line by April 2013, and will be sold as 2014 models.

The large SUVs sharing those platforms, such as the Chevrolet Suburban,  will begin production, according to Levine, by October.


Nissan Turns to Cummins, Feds to Help Develop Diesel for Titan Pickup

Could debut with all new version of Japanese truck.

by on May.23, 2011

The next-generation Nissan Titan may be getting a much-needed diesel option.

Cummins is developing a high-efficiency inline-four-cylinder diesel engine with money from the U.S. Department of Energy and in partnership with Nissan for demonstration in the Titan light-duty pickup truck.

The project, announced at the DOE’s 2011 Merit Review in Washington, D.C., could mean the next-generation of the Nissan Titan will come to market with a decidedly higher-mileage oil-burner.  That, in turn, might finally help get the truck out of the full-size sales cellar.

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Most half-ton truck makers are betting on small-displacement direct-injection gasoline engines to meet future fuel economy regulations, but Cummins expects its small displacement oil burner to get 40 percent better fuel economy over current light-duty V-8 truck engines. The Cummins average fuel economy target for this new diesel engine is 28 mpg while meeting tough U.S. Tier 2 Bin 2 emissions limits, according to the presentation.


First Drive: 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6

Can a pickup deliver both performance and fuel economy?

by on Oct.18, 2010

A 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost prepares for the upcoming Baja 1000 desert endurance race.

Mention the word, “pickup,” and a lumbering, gas-guzzling behemoth might come to mind.  But with the launch of its 2011 F-150, Ford is out to change that image.

From a sheet metal standpoint, not much changes, but there are some significant new features and, most important of all, a completely new range of engines.  At launch, Ford will roll out a new 3.7-liter V6 replacing the old 4.0-liter V6, a 5.0-liter V8 replacing the former 5.4-liter V8, and a 6.2-liter V8 borrowed from the F-250 Heavy Duty for some specialty models.

Later in the model year, for the first time in an American pickup truck, Ford will offer a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged direct-injection EcoBoost V6 engine, a design borrowed from the all-wheel drive Ford Flex, Taurus SHO, and Lincoln MKT.

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With the addition of the 3.7-liter V6, Ford shows just how good you can get mileage on a full-size pickup, which hits 23 mpg on the highway.  (Click Here for more.) But with the EcoBoost, Ford is out to prove that you can deliver both mileage and performance in the same package.

For pickup truck duty, the 3.5 EcoBoost V6 has been turned around 90 degrees and completely redesigned in order to drive the rear wheels.  It is rated at 365 horsepower and a massive 420 foot-pounds of torque, the same horsepower as a Taurus SHO but with far more torque for truck workloads.  In the F-150, it will cost $1750 over the base 3.7-liter V6.


All-New Ranger Debuting – But Not In U.S.

Ford’s Kuzak sees V6 F-150 as American alternative.

by on Sep.20, 2010

A first teaser shot of the Ford Ranger grille. The pickup debuts in Australia next month.

Ford is rolling out an all-new Ranger but if you want one in the U.S. or Canada, you’re out of luck.

“There are no plans for that at this time,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of global product development.

The redesigned Ranger, which has only been seen hidden by camouflage, will debut October 15 at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. The small hauler will be sold in 180 countries.


“The new Ranger is our global compact pickup truck that serves the world,” Kuzak said. “It’s an all-new truck with new powertrains that promise truck leadership in markets outside of North America.”


Ford To Beef Up F-Series Super Duty

More torque, horsepower could allow pickup to regain lead, recovering from previous Navistar engine quality problems.

by on Aug.03, 2010

With a big bump in performance, the 2011 Ford Super Duty is now the full-size torque king-of-the-hill.

Ford hopes its Super Duty pickup will soon regain king-of-the-hill status with a hefty boost in performance that it will put into production later this week.

But the added performance will be matched with improved fuel economy, the maker’s powertrain chief, Barb Samardzich told a gathering of industry leaders, in Traverse City, Michigan, today.

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Meanwhile, in a highly unusual move, the executive revealed that as part of a new customer loyalty program, Ford will upgrade the horsepower and torque for those who have already purchased a 2011 Super Duty diesel pickup.