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Are Diesel Truck Engines Doomed?

For as long as I can remember, truck enthusiasts have been clamoring for a half-ton diesel. Diesel engines offer a lot of advantages over gasoline motors, many of which truck owners find particularly appealing.

Diesel Fuel No. 2
Creative Commons License photo credit: respres

Diesel truck advantages:

  • Diesel is more efficient. Depending on who you ask, diesel engines are about 30% more fuel efficient than a gasoline engine of comparable size.
  • Diesel engines are heavy on torque. Diesel engines provide gobs of torque at very low RPMs – much more than a typical gas motor.
  • Diesel engines run a very long time. Your typical diesel truck engine will run 200k miles minimum before a problem develops. For gasoline engines, 120k miles is a more realistic “no problems” life span.

Of course, it’s not all roses and horsepower with diesels – here’s a few reasons diesels aren’t better than gasoline:

Toyota Continues to Tease Diesel Tundra Enthusiasts

Update: Read the complete story of the diesel Tundra

Here’s what our sources at Toyota have told us the last couple of years…

Toyota’s going to build a couple of diesel Tundra’s, and one of them will be a real live heavy-duty monster. Count on it – 3 years after launch tops.

No – wait – we’re not going to build a HD diesel right now, only the light-duty diesel. The big diesel and the HD Tundra will be delayed until this whole truck market bounces back.

Uh, we decided to go ahead and back off the light-duty diesel too. We’re not sure that with fuel prices being the way they are that blah, blah, blah.

In case you were wondering, this is an editorialized version of Toyota’s steady backslide on their commitment to build a diesel version of the Tundra. While Toyota is certainly entitled to change their mind about building a diesel Tundra (despite promises made to Toyota dealers to the contrary), what doesn’t make sense – what irritates the hell out of us, actually – is that Toyota continues to trot out the one-of-a-kind Tundra Diesel Dually that premiered at SEMA last year.

Visit to see their comments on this truck.

What’s the deal Toyota? You haven’t stomped on our hopes enough? Why keep showing us a truck you’re not going to build for at least another 5 years (if ever)?

Dropping Diesel Dumb Decision

Update: Read the complete story of the diesel Tundra

Toyota’s recent announcement that they’re “shelving” the diesel Tundra is a dumb decision. Here’s why:

  • Ford, GM, and Chrylser will all offer diesel half ton trucks in the next 2 years (or less). Toyota will be the only major manufacturer without a light-duty diesel truck.
  • Diesel engines offer the best potential for high fuel economy. Early estimates are that a diesel equipped Sierra or Silverado could get around 26mpg without a drop in performance* when compared to the current 5.3L gas engine.
  • Light duty diesels are the best substitute for Ford, Dodge, and GM HD truck owners looking to step-down without sacrificing capabilities.
  • Toyota already has an excellent light-duty diesel – the Aussie 4.5L twin turbo – ready to go. Economies of scale would likely make this engine cost-competitive with domestic offerings.

With the positives associated with integrating the 4.5L diesel into the Tundra being so plain, one has to wonder why Toyota would shelve such a promising powertrain? Lots of explanations are floating around, but here’s what we believe.

Have Toyota’s fears of a cultural conflict led them to cancel the diesel Tundra?

Toyota Officially Delays Tundra Diesel Light Duty

Update: Read the complete story of the diesel Tundra

Despite our complete disbelief and our challenge of the original report, Toyota exec Don Esmond (a senior VP) was officially quoted as saying “We’ve pushed back the [Tundra diesel] until we can figure out where the market is going.” Kudos to Mike Levine for confirming his earlier report on the record.

Has Toyota made a smart move, or is this decision an error in judgment?

  1. Ford, GM, and Dodge have all announced plans to offer 150(0)’s with diesel engines in the next 18-24 months. Based on this announcement Toyota will be the only serious half-ton truck manufacturer without a diesel. Toyota has made great strides to be considered “one of the big-boys” in the truck business, yet this announcement surrenders truck leadership to the domestics and drains momentum.
  2. Toyota has already broadcast their intention to delay the HD Tundra for a few years. This move seemed wise at the time – especially with the Tundra LD diesel on the way – but now it looks as if Toyota is surrendering the HD segment to the domestics as well.
  3. As we discussed here a few months ago, the cost-benefit analysis of a light-duty diesel Tundra depends greatly on the price premium for the diesel engine. Toyota probably can’t sell too many Tundra’s with diesel engines unless they can get the diesel engine price increase to less than $2000. Considering the complexity of a modern diesel, that price range might not have been feasible. Yet, somehow, the domestic truck manufacturers have yet to back off their plans to produce half-ton diesel trucks. Is Toyota unable to match the diesel engine pricing of GM, Ford, and Dodge?
  4. The analysis from says that Toyota didn’t think they could sell enough diesel Tundra trucks to make a profit, with fuel prices being cited as part of the reason for lower sales. Yet Ford and Dodge both have a mountain of evidence to indicate that new truck sales have likely hit bottom. This would seem to agree with common sense – after all, trucks are still necessary equipment for a lot of Americans. If truck sales are likely to increase, why freeze development?

Toyota’s decision to pause the release of the 4.5L Tundra diesel was likely based on nothing more than accounting. It doesn’t make sense from a product development standpoint, and when Ford, GM, and Dodge enjoy strong sales of the 150(0) diesel trucks, Toyota will have to look back on this decision and wonder why they allowed accountants to build vehicles.

At least we can expect an updated Tundra next year…

Reports That 4.5L Diesel Tundra “Delayed Indefinitely” Don’t Add Up

UPDATE – This news has been confirmed – please see our response “Dropping The Diesel A Dumb Decision

### has reported that plans for a light-duty 4.5L diesel Tundra have been shelved. We officially doubt the veracity of this news report.

1. Toyota is rumored to be producing a 4.5L diesel version of the Landcruiser for the Canadian market next year (promotional materials have been described). Making this engine ready for the low-volume Canadian market while canceling it in the U.S. makes no sense. At the very least, if the Tundra doesn’t get the 4.5L, you can bet that nothing else in the North America will either.

2. The 4.5L diesel boosts Toyota’s CAFE average. Toyota will find it easier to meet new CAFE requirements if they find a way to improve truck and large SUV fuel economy by 25%. The 4.5L diesel would improve fuel economy by at least that much.

3. Everyone else is doing it. Dodge, Ford, and GM definitely need to build small diesel motors if they want to have any chance of meeting federal CAFE requirements. This is an absolute, set in stone, iron-clad fact. The domestics WILL be offering diesel versions of the Ram, Silverado/Sierra, and F150 by 2010 or 2011. Toyota can’t be the only manufacturer that doesn’t offer this engine – at least not without officially becoming an “also-ran.”

4. The LandCruiser and the Sequoia would both benefit from a diesel motor. The 4.5L wasn’t just going to be put in the Tundra – it was also going to be offered in the Sequoia and the LandCruiser. Both of these vehicles could use a powerful and fuel efficient motor.

5. Finally, and most importantly, this rumor doesn’t make sense. If we assume for a moment that the U.S. truck market is going “small,” big truck sales (i.e. three-quarter and one-ton trucks) will suffer the most. Ford, GM, and Dodge have already determined that their HD and SuperDuty lines are overkill for 90% of their buyers, hence their commitment to offering diesel half-ton trucks. The rationale is that by offering a powerful diesel in a half-ton truck, you give people currently driving a 3/4 or 1-ton truck a truck to “step down” to. A half-ton diesel can offer tremendous performance (12k lbs towing, 2500lbs payload) while also offering decent fuel economy and lower maintenance costs. After all, less than 5 years ago most heavy duty trucks (3/4 and 1 ton) couldn’t pull much more than 12k lbs. Now half-tons are pulling that much.

We think this rumor has been “floated” by Toyota’s PR people to guage public response to a possible official announcement. It sounds like the penny-pinchers at Toyota are advocating a step in the wrong direction – hopefully the loud public outcry will put them in their place.