EDITOR'S NOTE: The Ram offers a 6.7-liter, inline 6 Cummins turbodiesel. The original story incorrectly identified the engine as a V-6.
As fuel-economy standards rise, there's one important corner of the industry where bigger is still better.
Redesigned and re-engineered heavy-duty pickups from the Detroit 3 will hit the market this year with more power, increased towing capacity and improved fuel economy.
Timing of the launches could be better, since commercial real estate continues to suffer from the recession. Orders from building contractors continue to lag during the housing slump.
But the Detroit 3 say personal-use buyers, such as boat owners, are accounting for a larger share of heavy-duty pickup sales. To cater to these buyers, the redesigned pickups have more amenities.
The heavy-duty segment is an important one. The players are the Ford Super Duty 250, 350 and 450; Ram 2500 and 3500; and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 models. Combined, they make up an estimated 300,000 annual sales, about 29 percent of the Detroit 3's total full-sized pickup sales. Toyota and Nissan do not offer heavy-duty pickups.
Heavy-duty pickups "are among the crown jewels" in the domestic auto industry, says John Wolkonowicz, an analyst at IHS Global Insight. He estimates heavy-duty pickup sales generate 20 to 25 percent of annual profits at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors Co.