Ford Motor Co., which is facing mounting pressure to reduce its reliance on gas-guzzling trucks, on Tuesday said it would begin selling a new diesel version of its Super Duty pickup in early 2007.
The launch of the heavy-duty, diesel-powered pickup comes at a crucial time for Ford, which has had to slash truck production this year after sales slowed faster than expected in the face of higher U.S. interest rates and gas prices.
Ford said it would unveil the 2008 model of its F-Series Super Duty pickup aimed at commercial truck buyers on September 28 at an event in Dallas.
The new Ford Super Duty pickup joins a growing list of upcoming U.S. diesel-powered trucks and sport utility vehicles intended to provide more power and improved economy to win over buyers concerned about high fuel prices.
Ford said the new 6.4-liter diesel engine in the 2008 Super Duty would be larger than the 6.0-liter V8 in the current model and become first diesel engine in the U.S. market to feature a high-precision fuel injection system.
That system, combined with new low-sulfur fuel, will make the engine run more quietly and reduce emissions to the level of a gasoline engine, Ford said.
Ford dominates the lucrative U.S. pickup market, with the F-series alone accounting for 30 percent of its annual sales.
But last week Ford said it would cut fourth-quarter production to its lowest level in 25 years in order to accelerate a turnaround plan that has not yielded results fast enough amid falling sales.
Ford said the production cuts were necessary because high gasoline prices have cut into demand for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.
By contrast, sales of diesel-powered trucks remain a small but still growing part of the U.S. market, with annual sales up about 25 percent since 2001.
Almost three-quarters of all Ford Super Duty truck buyers already opt for a diesel engine, Ford said.
The growth in the U.S. market for diesel engines has been boosted in part by upcoming U.S. government regulations that will require ultra-low sulfur fuel to be widely available from October.
Ford said it would provide more details on the pricing of the 2008 Super Duty closer to the introduction of the new vehicles early next year.