Back in November of 2006 I wrote an entry on what I thought this country needed was a good mini-pickup truck that had a diesel engine. I also wrote to Ralph Gilles of Chrysler Corporation with the same idea. He was good enough to honor my email with a thoughtful reply where he articulated the realities of the costs of diesel engines given the ULEV requirements on them. Diesel engine also require more costly fuel injectors more costly fuel pumps, more costly and larger catalytic converters, etc. All these could result in another $2000 in costs that would have to be passed on to the buyer.
All true, but with today’s cost of fuel ballooning with no end in sight (including diesel fuel) the era of “Joe Everyday” driving a full sized pickup truck is gone. Just ask Ford how many F150’s (once Ford’s biggest seller) they expect to produce and sell this year. The full size pickup truck is still a necessity for the true business truck or someone who can still afford to haul a boat, but more and more a mini pickup truck makes much more sense.
It allows for the utilitarian capabilities that a regular pickup truck provides, but in a package that can weigh far less. Weight, as we all know, has a direct effect on gas mileage. Combine a mini pickup truck with a diesel engine and you could have a real winner. Imagine being able to park your pickup truck in your garage and get 30% better mileage than a gasoline version.
As for the cost of developing an engine for the mini pickup a company like Chrysler could always partner with Isuzu. Mitsubishi did so when they decided to enter the Thailand market in 1957. GM is looking to sell off Isuzu at this point anyway, so their small diesel engines could be the most valuable asset they have – perfect for a company like Chrysler, given their own troubles.
So I’ll say it again – Americans are a ripe market for mini pickup trucks with diesel power. Make them in 2WD and AWD and keep them as light as regulations will allow. Don’t load them up with luxury that belongs in a $40K+ car. Let the aftermarket customizer do that if customers want. People fill find them excellent commute vehicles as well as perfect for weekend runs to the home supply store or hardware store.