GM mulls small diesel for pickups

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DETROIT -- General Motors is considering adding a small-displacement diesel engine to its Chevrolet and GMC 1500 pickups to boost fuel economy.

In the pickup fuel economy race, GM's trucks trail the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and new Ford F-150.

The Ram EcoDiesel is expected to get an EPA certified highway fuel economy number of around 28 mpg. Ford is aiming at 30 mpg for its new lightweight F-150, which uses an aluminum body. Ford says the switch to aluminum reduces the 2015 F-150's curb weight from comparable 2014 models by between 550 and 700 pounds, depending on the trim level.

The most fuel-efficient GM truck carries an EPA highway rating of 24 mpg.

Steve Kiefer, GM's vice president of global powertrain, said today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that all options are open, including possibly reviving a diesel engine that had been intended for GM trucks five years ago.

That engine, a 4.5-liter V-8, was to be built in GM's Tonawanda, N.Y., engine plant. GM had gone as far as clearing factory floor space and installing the transfer lines when financial problems caused the company to put the brakes on the engine.

"We are looking closely at diesel entrees in that segment," said Kiefer. "In fact, I heard the terms 'dust off' that 4½-liter at one point. That is certainly one of the options. Clearly, we have a portfolio of diesel engines," he said.

GM's full-sized trucks were redesigned last year, so it is unlikely that that the bodies could be switched to aluminum until the next redesign. A diesel engine could give GM a high fuel economy option for its trucks much sooner.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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