Three world automakers are currently evaluating VM Motori's new, high-performance 3.0-liter V-6 common-rail turbodiesel engine.
"A European maker is testing our VR 630 engine on a sedan, a US maker on a full-size minivan, and a Japanese maker on an SUV," said Vilmo Ferioli, CEO of VM Motori, the Italian subsidiary of Detroit Diesel of the USA.
Ferioli, who refused to name the carmakers, said they are using the engine transversally mounted, but "it could be mounted also longitudinally, something that shows how flexible our products are."
VM Motori unveiled the VR 630 at the auto show in Bologna, Italy, in December 2000. At that time, the 2,987cc, 24-valve, 60-degree V-6 delivered 210hp. The current prototypes are getting close to 240hp and one carmaker wants no less than 250hp for production.
For automotive applications, VM Motori currently supplies more than 40,000 units a year of its four-cylinder, 2.5-liter R 425 engine to DaimlerChrysler for the Chrysler Voyager and the Jeep Cherokee.
An evolution of the R 425 taken from 2.5- to 2.8-liters, the so-called R 428, debuted in January 2003 on European versions of the Cherokee. By spring 2004, the R 428 will also be used in the Jeep Liberty.
By the end of the year, VM Motori will deliver its 400,000th engine to DaimlerChrysler since it began supplying the Voyager in spring 1992.
VM Motori is also using the new VR 630 V-6 engine as the basis for a 4.0-liter V-8 300hp unit that could be ready within two years.
"This high-performance V-8 could be used on sports cars and SUVs in Europe, while for light trucks in the USA we are thinking of making a 5.6-liter V-8 by coupling two of our R 428 four-cylinder engines," Ferioli said.
Last year, VM Motori built 56,000 turbodiesel engines, about 15,000 for applications outside the auto industry.
Company revenues decreased from E239 million in 2001 to 229 million in 2002, but operating profit grew from 3.4 million to 3.5 million.
In addition to building complete engines, VM Motori designs and engineers turbodiesel engines to be manufactured by carmakers in their own engine plants. In the last decade these carmakers have included Alfa Romeo, Ford of Europe, IBC (for the Opel/Vauxhall Frontera) and Rover.
In late 2000, Hyundai began production in South Korea of a new family of modular common-rail turbodiesel engines designed and developed by VM Motori.
VM Motori is working on similar engineering and development contracts with unnamed Indian and Chinese vehicle makers.