Where Will It Stop - Final Gear - January 2015
Truck Manufactures War
The days have begun to get shorter, nights are cooler, trees are losing their leaves, and truck manufacturers are at war with each other. Just like the changing of the seasons, it comes like clockwork each September. One manufacturer introduces a new model it claims does something better than the one before it—or better than the competition—and this throws the world off its axis.
OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but this year would have you thinking it actually is. Before I get too far, let me say this: I’m not here to take sides. I have my opinions, but in the interest of remaining as unbiased as possible, I’ll be keeping them to myself. And in case you’ve been living in a cave—and there’s nothing wrong with that—let me give a little background as to what’s been in the news this past month.
Basically, Ford claimed Best-in-Class status for its ’15 F-450’s towing prowess (which I do agree it deserves), while some people question the merit of calling it a Class 3 pickup. Ram fired back and took the Best-in-Class honors for payload and torque with its ’15 3500. GM simply sat back with a bag of popcorn and watched the drama as it unfolded. That’s the short version, anyway.
Now, quarrels aside, let me tell you why I like seeing this happen. Simply put, competition breeds innovation. No matter what we’re talking about—it could be trucks, sports, hobbies, or even work—when you’re left with no competition, the necessity to improve goes away. This gives way to becoming lazy and ultimately content with your own mediocrity. Stop there. I’m speaking generally, so put down the pen—there’s no reason to send the hate mail quite yet. And really, if you’re already mad at me for bringing it up, maybe it’s time to change things up in your life. OK, let’s continue.
Why is this competition good, you ask? Well, it would seem that each time one of the Big Three diesel truck manufacturers announces a new model with more power, a higher payload, and greater towing prowess, one of the other two one-ups them. It usually takes a year before the competitor’s model hits the market, but they sometimes strike right back. We saw a great example of this in 2011. Ford hit the market first with its all-new 6.7L Power Stroke V-8, rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque. This performance was significantly higher than any of the competition’s…until Ram announced that its ’11 Cummins-powered trucks would make 350 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. While Ford still had the edge on horsepower, Cummins walloped it in the torque category. Cue up number three, and GM steps to the plate with a new Duramax sporting 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque, sending Ford and its brand-new engine to the back of the pack just that quickly.
But not so fast, Ford had one more trick up its sleeve and showed it with the release of a new engine calibration that gave the new Power Stroke a bump to 400 hp and 800 lb-ft, solidifying its claim of the horsepower crown and tying Ram for torque.
Fast-forward to 2014; Ram’s now sitting at the top with an engine that makes 385 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque. Ford then announces that the ’15 Power Stroke will make 440 hp and 860 lb-ft, a number that is simply staggering for a factory-stock pickup. Well, Ram fired right back by issuing a new calibration that boosted torque output for the 6.7L Cummins to 865 lb-ft, just as we saw Ford do in 2011. But you knew this already.
So, why should you care about the bickering between manufacturers about who’s on top? Because history has shown that this is what breeds better, more powerful, and more capable pickups. GM has been quiet through this latest round, and you know what? I’m betting it’s holding the ace that’s going to send Ford and Ram back to the drawing board.