Truck Manufacturers Waging Fuel Economy Battle

Based on the discussion linked and the current CAFE rules, ( it would almost certainly be easier for the manufacturers to continue making the trucks bigger and heavier–and get them OVER that 8500# GVWR than to lighten them. Then come back and build a new generation of smaller trucks–much smaller trucks–to take on that under-8500# rating. But I already know what would happen there.
For one, that would drive the F-150/Silverado/Ram line all up into the medium-duty range and while that wouldn’t necessarily have much effect on demand, it would change licensing requirements–forcing many current drivers to get a CDL just to own one. While I think this would be a good idea (drivers in general need more and better road manners) it would meet with a lot of resistance by the general pickup truck-driving populace.
Meanwhile, the smaller trucks brought down to true mid-size proportions would see a surge of sales outweighing the current crop of full-size as even the most hard-core full-size owner would realize they simply don’t need something that big and heavy if they’re not actually using its medium-duty capabilities.
All three brands have recognized they need to reduce weight and improve power on smaller, less thirsty engines. Ford refuses to make their trucks smaller for now and have turned to using “exotic materials” to remove weight to make it easier on those smaller engines. GM has chosen to go back to a two-platform basis in the hopes that their smaller truck will take some of the pressure off, but if they’re to average 30mpg with a combination of full size and mid size, that midsize needs to go as far over that 30 as the full size stays under that 30. This means they either need to go smaller yet or rely heavily on 4-cyl engines–which will kill performance and capabilities in a truck as large as the new crop of C&C twins. Ram? Diesel will help, but again that diesel will need to go as far over the 30mpg goal as their gassers remain under. They have an advantage with the Jeep brand somewhat in that the Wrangler qualifies as a truck, but its current gas mileage rating isn’t that much better than the Rams and pushes that two-ton curb weight itself.
However we look at it, in order to reach the new CAFE ratings we’re going to see some significant changes in trucks overall. For consumer use they’re almost guaranteed to get smaller and lighter with time simply because more size means more weight, no matter what materials you use to build it. The newest Boeing Dreamliner may be a lightweight compared to the 757/767, but it still weigh hundreds of tons and needs incredible power to get it airborne. It’s also designed to carry commercial loads numbering in multiple hundreds of passengers or some tens of tons of cargo. Short-haul operations don’t need that capacity and use much smaller aircraft that still get the basic task done at far lower cost.
Conclusion: the age of the Road Whale™ is coming to an end. Smaller will come back not necessarily because it’s popular, but simply because larger is not economically feasible.

One thought on “Truck Manufacturers Waging Fuel Economy Battle”

  1. Trucks may reduce mass but they won’t shrink in side. CAFE and Emissions are footprint based. We won’t see trucks get heavier due to CAFE and emissions and because pushing them into a heavier GVW class means meeting different rules and regulations.

    There is a reason why GM did not release a Colorado/Canyon reg cam and that is footprint. The other reason is reg cab trucks are fleet queen and cheapskate drones with poor profit margins. Even Toyota is rumoured to be killing the reg cab Tacoma.

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