GM increases production of Duramax diesel engine

Closing the gap
GM vs. Ford truck sales since 1995
  FORD F SERIES CHEVY SILVERADO/GMC SIERRA
2000 876,716 834,057
1999 869,001 852,777
1998 836,629 716,545
1997 746,111 724,664
1996 780,838 723,000
1995 691,452 713,858
SOURCE: AUTOMOTIVE NEWS DATA CENTER

General Motors' Powertrain division will boost production of the new Duramax diesel truck engine in a bid to grab at least 25 percent of the diesel truck market.

Production at the Moraine, Ohio, plant GM jointly owns with Isuzu Motors Ltd. will rise from 100,000 units this year to 150,000 by 2004, said James Kerekes, chief engineer for GM's diesel engines.

Isuzu and GM jointly developed the 300-hp engine, which is optional in heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

GM also will use the Duramax in 2002-model-year medium-duty trucks.

Isuzu does not offer a version of the engine.

GM lost sales leadership of full-sized trucks to Ford in 1996 but has a chance of regaining the title this year. Through September, Ford's F series had a slim 4,000-unit lead over combined Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra sales, 650,856 to 646,663. The Duramax takes much of the credit for closing the gap.

Since January, GM has sold 66,000 pickups with the Duramax engine. GM's old diesel, a 6.5-liter V-8, sold about 20,000 units in 1998, its last full year on the market. Duramax Brand Manager Bill Lussier believes GM can take as much as a third of the annual market for heavy-duty diesel pickups, up from a meager 1.2 percent in 1998.

Ford doesn't break out sales for individual truck models or engines, but spokesman George Pippas said about 25 percent of F-series trucks are sold with the Power Stroke diesel engine supplied by International Truck and Engine Corp. That gives Ford an annual volume of about 160,000 diesel sales per year, based on sales through September.

Before the Duramax muscled it out of the way, the Dodge Ram was second in diesel sales to Ford's F series. The Ram is available with an inline six-cylinder diesel made by Cummins. Dodge sold 96,496 diesel Rams in 2000 and 51,909 through September.

The new heavy-duty Ram will offer a revamped version of the Cummins inline six-cylinder engine, but it won't be available until next year.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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