Detroit automakers fight for commercial truck supremacy

Detroit automakers fight for commercial truck supremacy

Ford, GM join FCA in launching new heavy duty pickups for commercial buyers.

February 6, 2019

Cleveland, Ohio – Tuesday was big truck day for automakers with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors showing off new versions of their light commercial vehicles. As usual, it’s an exercise in numeric superiority.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) got the ball rolling last month, debuting its 2019 Ram Heavy Duty truck line at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The biggest number: more than 1,000 lb-ft of torque from its Cummins diesel engine.

On Tuesday, GM showed off pictures of its 2020 Silverado HD truck line, a vehicle that will debut in person Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show. At 910 lb-ft, it can’t match the Ram’s torque, so GM engineers looked for other big numbers: 35,500 lb towing capacity (topping the Ram’s 35,100 lb) and a 10-speed transmission, compared to 6-speeds from Ford and Ram.

”We increased towing capabilities across the line, not just for dually buyers,” said Jaclyn McQuaid, chief engineer, Silverado HD. “We added class-leading towing technologies, such as 15 available camera views, to make trailering more convenient, whether pulling a large cargo trailer or fifth-wheel camper. And we made a host of changes to make tasks easier.”

Ford played matters a bit closer to the chest Tuesday with the announcement of the 2020 F-Series Super Duty lineup. At 35,000 lb of towing capacity, the 2019 Super Duty line had been the leading hauler of the three major work trucks, and engineers from the automaker promised an increase, but statistics weren’t part of the announcement. Engineers said torque and horsepower on the 6.7L diesel engine would improve, but they didn’t say if they’d match Ram’s 1,000 lb-ft.

The company shared one superlative: 7.3L, the size of the new V8 gasoline engine available on the truck. The diesel will still be the work king, but the gas option will be welcome for some users.

“Super Duty customers have demanding and diverse needs – from towing heavy trailers to repairing critical infrastructure,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, North America. “Productivity is their lifeblood and their truck is their biggest tool. Our new Super Duty has more power, more payload, and towing capability and better technology than ever to help these customers build a better world.”

Ford has a long history of keeping quiet on numbers until late in the game, hoping to get competitors to announce first, then beating them. In 2001, for example, Ford officials quietly leaked potential power ratings for the F-150, numbers that Nissan for one took seriously. When the Japanese automaker announced power and torque numbers for its original Titan pickup, it boasted class-leading statistics… until later that day when Ford officials unveiled the true, much-higher numbers.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 18 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.