Special Report: Light- and Medium-Duty Equipment Roundup

Successful Dealer Staff June 11, 2012

NG offerings dominate latest products

While Class 8 trucks and tractors remain the bread and butter for most North American fleet operations, a growing number of equipment options exist for fleets spec’ing light- and medium-duty vehicles, spanning everything from small urban delivery vans like the Chevy HHR and the Ford Transit Connect up to larger cab-forward trucks like the Isuzu NPR and Mitsubishi Canter.

Major OEMs continue to embrace alternative-fuel options as they look at new ways to power these vehicles. Several years ago, medium-duty hybrids dominated because they were well-suited to municipal and telecommunications fleets. After that, all-electric delivery vans appeared on the grid.

Now the buzz is all about natural gas-powered trucks, and virtually every press conference held during this year’s NTEA Work Truck Show addressed natural gas, be it compressed or liquefied natural gas, infrastructure issues or new products. All the major OEMs were anxious to highlight the investments they are making to provide fleets with integrated factory-assembled natural gas trucks that will provide economical, reliable power and help offset rising diesel and gasoline prices.

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest vehicles and product offerings in the light- and medium-duty equipment marketplace.

Ram, GMC, Chevy spotlight alt-fuel options

The Ram brand – since separating from the Dodge car line two years ago – has pushed forward consistently with a series of innovative products designed for the North American commercial truck market. To that end, Ram has introduced four new models designed specifically for fleet and commercial truck customers.

Ram says the 2500 HD CNG pickup truck is the only factory-built CNG pickup truck offered in North America today.

Highlighting the new vehicles is the Ram 2500 HD CNG pickup truck, which is fully covered by Ram’s five-year 100,000-mile warranty. Fred Diaz, Ram Truck president, says Ram is able to deliver a factory-built CNG truck thanks to parent company Fiat’s experience with the technology, which Ram was able to leverage in the 5.7-Hemi dual-fuel engine’s design. The Ram 2500 HD features a full crew cab and 8-foot box, a 14.2-cubic-foot CNG tank and an 8-gallon gasoline tank for a combined range of more than 600 miles.

Ram also announced two new fleet-focused Tradesman pickups, the Tradesman Crew and Quad Cab models. The full-size four-door trucks offer seating for six adults, V8 power and a standard towing package. The Ram 4.7-liter V8 is rated at 310 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque and delivers 20 mpg in highway driving; a more powerful 4.7-liter engine also is available with towing capability up to 7,700 pounds. A third power option, a 5.7-liter Hemi engine, churns out 390 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque.

Another new model is the upfitter-friendly Ram chassis cutaway van, which maintains the truck’s structural integrity in cases where modifiers need to remove up to 80 percent of the truck body – as in ambulance body installations, for example. All regular cab Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab trucks now can be modified.

Meanwhile, Chevrolet and GMC announced details of General Motors’ bi-fuel 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab pickup trucks. The vehicles include a CNG-capable Vortec 6.0-liter V8 engine that transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems.

The truck always starts using gasoline and switches over to CNG once the proper operating temperature is reached. However, the driver can switch between fuels at any time – even when driving at highway speeds – simply by pressing a button mounted on the dashboard.

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