Ford pushes hard for diesel F-150 By RICHARD TRUETT | Automotive News Despite a canceled deal with International Truck and Engine Corp., Ford Motor Co. still wants to introduce a six-cylinder diesel engine for the F-150 pickup. A diesel-powered F-150 "could be a big seller," says Dave Szczupak, Ford's global powertrain chief. The pickup could be introduced as early as 2006, followed by a mid-sized diesel SUV and a car, says Phil Martens, Ford's vice president of North American product creation. Ford wants to be first on the market with a light-duty diesel truck. It wants to beat General Motors to this market segment to enhance the F-150's status as the world's best-selling vehicle. But it's unclear where Ford would get a diesel engine for its trucks. Given the expense of designing one, Ford most likely would buy one from a supplier. And that's where things get messy. International Truck and Engine Corp. already supplies Ford with the 6.0-liter PowerStroke engine used in the F-series Super Duty trucks, but that engine has encountered major quality problems. This year, Ford repurchased at least 500 trucks suffering from severe engine malfunctions caused by the fuel injection system. Ford also encountered problems with the turbocharger and engine computer. The new PowerStroke's flawed launch is the major reason for bad blood between Ford and International Truck. Last year, Ford abruptly canceled plans to buy International Truck's 4.5-liter diesel V-6 for the new F-150. International Truck swallowed a $170 million charge to cover the cost of engine development and factory tooling. The company later received compensation from Ford. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Martens has ruled out new contracts with International Truck. "We stopped work with International on the V-6," Martens says. "Right now, there are no plans to restart that work." Martens did not indicate why Ford killed the V-6 deal. But it is believed that the engine was too costly and would not have met future pollution standards. Ford also may have been concerned about the emissions system's durability. The impasse could not have come at a worse time. Ford sells 250,000 diesel F-series pickups annually, and they are profitable. While Ford struggles with the PowerStroke engine, General Motors is looming in Ford's rearview mirror. GM's hot-selling Duramax diesel truck engine has helped the automaker to increase its share of diesel truck sales to 29 percent. That's up from 2 percent just three years ago. GM expects to sell 150,000 diesel-powered Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks this year. The automaker is weighing a decision to boost production capacity at its lone Duramax engine plant in Ohio, says GM's Global Powertrain Vice President Tom Stephens. If Ford wants to be first to introduce a light-duty diesel pickup in North America, it must find another engine supplier. Each of the suppliers listed below has declined to indicate whether it is negotiating a deal with Ford. But several appear to be possible candidates. Detroit Diesel Corp. has built a 4.0-liter V-6 that would be ideal for a light-duty truck. The motor is rated at 235 hp and 340 pounds-feet of torque. Detroit Diesel could deliver it for the 2006 model year. A Detroit Diesel official says its affiliation with the Chrysler group would not prevent such a deal. John Deere produces diesel engines for light and heavy equipment. The company could produce a six-cylinder diesel for a light-duty truck, says company spokesman Ken Golden. Caterpillar Inc. specializes in diesels for tractor-trailers, buses and earth-moving equipment. But company officials say they have no plans to build a small diesel for a light truck. Cummins Inc. supplies diesels for Dodge. The heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks feature Cummins' 5.9-liter inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel. Last month, the company signed a long-term contract to supply DaimlerChrysler. The deal does not prevent Cummins from selling a diesel engine to another automaker, says Cummins spokesman Jason Rawlings. The company is "actively and aggressively" looking for new customers, he says. Cummins has a variety of engines that could be used in a pickup such as the F-150. And Cummins already supplies some diesel engines to Ford for heavy-duty applications, such as medium-duty trucks. But DaimlerChrysler might discourage Cummins from selling diesels to Ford for trucks that would compete directly with the Ram. "We value our relationship with DaimlerChrysler," Rawlings says. "They are an important customer to us. The relationship plays a factor in our decisions."