Fuel prices may may have dipped, but the long-term trajectory for oil prices is firmly upward. Aside from environmental concerns, the price of fuel has a real effect on consumer spending and economic growth.
According to a report by Truck Trend magazine, when fuel was below $1 a gallon, there was little incentive to dramatically improve fuel economy, especially in vehicle segments where utility and capability were the primary considerations, but with prices sitting firmly above $3 and sometimes $4 a gallon, improved fuel economy has become a major purchase consideration and engineering objective in all vehicle segments — including full-size trucks.
For decades, full-size pickups – a key tow vehicle segment for the RV industry – struggled to hit the 20 mpg highway mark even with lower-power entry-level engines. Manufacturers focused on increasing power and torque, while keeping fuel economy relatively static, something that buyers were perfectly happy with. Things have changed considerably in the past three to four years, however, and manufacturers have started looking at fuel economy as well. That shift in priorities has led to a number of developments in the full-size truck market.
General Motors introduced its line of XFE and hybrid fullsize trucks and SUVs models in 2008. Ford followed first with the SFE model and, more recently, with the EcoBoost turbocharged V-6. Chrysler has announced the availability of an eight-speed transmission with the new Pentastar V-6 in the upcoming 2013 Ram 1500, resulting in a forecast EPA estimate of 17 city and 24 highway. Chrysler also appears to be actively testing prototype turbodiesel Ram 1500s, trucks that could break the 25 highway MPG threshold.
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General Motors Corp. will invest approximately $275 million to prepare its plant in Fort Wayne, Ind., to build the next generation of Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickup trucks, creating or retaining 150 jobs.
The plant, which currently has 3,400 employees on three shifts, builds the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups.
The investment announced today is the last announcement of the $2 billion GM announced in May 2011 that will create or retain about 4,000 jobs in 17 facilities in eight states over the next 18 months.
“This investment will allow us to continue building award-winning pickups that offer better fuel efficiency than ever before without sacrificing features and functionality,” said Larry Zahner, GM manufacturing manager. “We remain committed to providing customers the utility and capability of our world-class full-size pickups.”
September was a very good month for GM’s full-size pickup trucks, which are key tow vehicles for the RV market. GMC Sierra sales were up 26 percent and Chevrolet Silverado sales were up 36 percent. Sales of GM full-size pickups have increased month over month since July, contributing to a year-to-date market share gain of about one full point.