PUTC: How many extra filters did you add on the new Power Stroke versus the last version?
Eckert: Well, from an adding perspective, we’ve added a new particulate filter but it really works from the front of the engine to the back. It’s the particulate filter that really drives Ford’s clean diesel technology, that’s from an emissions perspective. It collects particulates from the engine up front and routes them to the back where they can be burned up in the exhaust.
In addition to that we’ve also added one more cooling element. The radiator is about 33% larger because of the larger displacement of the 6.4-liter diesel. Requiring more air in there to cool it is very important. Ultimately the system works together, from that standpoint.
This is our first application of Ford clean diesel technology in a pickup truck. It will be the quietest and cleanest diesel we’ve ever made.
PUTC: What sales trends are you seeing in the heavy duty buyer? With fuel prices and interest rates rising, is this having any impact on who’s purchasing these trucks?
Eckert: Well, last year as you know, we saw some decline in truck sales but this (heavy duty pickups) continues to be a very strong segment in the industry. When we look at the heavy duty market specifically we’re still seeing much of the past trends. Yes, housing starts are down a bit but at the same time we haven’t seen a complete drop off in terms of people that are purchasing heavy duty pickup trucks, because in the end, in the over 8.500 pound market, consumers still, much of them contractors and in the industries building this country, need a truck they can depend on and they continue to need capable trucks. There’s been a drop in some buyers because of economic factors but we haven’t really seen that correspond in a complete drop in heavy duty pickup trucks.
We really see the trends that we have been following continuing because remember it’s also not just affected by what’s going on in the construction markets but it’s also what’s going on with people maybe taking less trips maybe overseas or by flight. Instead, they are doing more driving, so in terms of people that are using it for horse trailers and RVs, that’s something we continue to see. And, actually, RV sales are up and they’re getting larger and that’s the reason why you see more of a direction towards trucks like the F-450.
PUTC: But on the very large commercial truck side, if you look at sales of vehicles like big rigs, which are just now starting to feel the pain of increasingly stronger diesel emissions regulations which are ratcheting up diesel engine prices, aren’t you concerned that this is going to start to add similar costs to Power Stroke engines and maybe make buyers question about whether a diesel is worth the extra cost - especially after 2010 when light duty commercial emissions will become stricter than this year’s regulations? In the case of tractor trailer diesels this year, the cost of some diesel engines has increased up to $10,000 because of the new emissions control gear required. That’s making a lot of commercial buyers postpone purchases.
Eckert: We continue to look at this to see what impact the new emissions regulations are going to have. But, remember, the diesel engine cost increase due to the emissions and regulations on the commercial side are much steeper than what we’re seeing here in the over 8,500 pound market. In the ¾-ton and 1-ton trucks we’re not talking about increases of $10,000 prices to consumer, we’re more in the $1,500 range this year and we won’t know until we see what happens in the marketplace when this truck goes on sale but in terms of what we’ve seen and heard from consumers this price increase doesn’t seem to be a sticking point, but it’s something we’re certainly going to continue to watch.