Eight Chassis Manufacturers Update NTEA Members at Truck Conference

THE ANNUAL NTEA Truck Product Conference was a significantly larger event with substantially larger trucks.

This year's event, which attracted almost 500 NTEA members, also drew the participation of eight chassis manufacturers. No more than three manufacturers had ever made presentations to the truck body and truck equipment industry in the more than 20 years that the conference has been conducted.

Primarily an event with presentations from Chevrolet/GMC, Ford, and Dodge, manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty trucks were well represented at the meeting held September 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Michigan.

In addition to presentations from Dodge, Ford, and General Motors, NTEA members heard from Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso, Navistar International, Nissan Diesel America, and Sterling Truck Corporation. Here is what these manufacturers had to say: Chevy, GMC Replace C/K Series, Announce Sale of P Series to UCBC THE NEW GM 800 full-size pickup has been made bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter, according to Mike Soich with Chevrolet Commercial Specialty Vehicles.

The replacement of the C/K Series full-size truck was the focal point of the Chevrolet and GMC segment of the NTEA Truck Product Conference. But the biggest surprise for many at the conference was the announcement that Union City Body Company in Union City, Indiana, had signed a letter of intent to purchase the P Series chassis. GM will cease production of the P Series December 23.

The 1999 full-size 1500 and 2500 Series pickups are the first models being introduced in a three-year rollout that, upon completion in the 2001 model year, will replace the company's lineup of full-size trucks. The process begins this year with pickups rated at 8,600 pounds or less GVW. For these models, the C/K designation will still apply to the current design pickups and chassis models, while pickups with the new design will be labeled the Silverado for Chevrolet models and Sierra for GMC.

Not all under-8,600-lb GVWR trucks will have the new design. For example, the half-ton extended cab pickup with the short box and three doors will have the current sheet metal. Chevrolet and GMC dealers will have half-ton C/K/Sierra products and half-ton Silverado and the new Sierra design-both 1999 models.

In December, however, production of half-ton C/K products will stop. GM will produce only Silverado and Sierra half-ton models.

Following the half-ton pickups, GM will introduce Suburban and Tahoe/Yukon models with the new design for the 2000 model year. Pickups rated above 8,600 pounds GVW, along with chassis cab models, will follow in the year 2001.

Pickup box removal programs, chassis cab installation guidelines, and snowplow prep packages all require barrier testing. Those will not go into place for the new designs until after the barrier testing is finalized. These tests are scheduled to be completed in December.

Once the tests have validated the designs, and GM has established the model availability and criteria under which pickup boxes can be removed, the program will be retroactive to the beginning of the model year.

The VYU snowplow prep package is being validated and released on an ongoing basis. The manufacturer suggests that those interested in the prep package check with Chevrolet and GMC dealers for model availability.

Plenty of Carryover

Current design Chevrolet and GMC models that receive commercial truck bodies and equipment will be carryover models in 1999. As such, it will be business as usual regarding pickup box removal and snowplow installations. Those models that could receive snowplows or have the pickup boxes removed last year will be able to do the same this year. However:

* The S10 pickup, model S10803, will not be offered with pickup box removal in the 1999 model year, according to Steve Strine with General Motors Truck Group. The company hopes to restore the program to the S10 line for the 2000 model year.

* A few exceptions are the K10703 and K10903 trucks built as 1999 models. These will have the new sheet metal and will not be available for snowplow installations until testing is complete and GM authorizes the work. When the engineering is complete and installations can be authorized, GM will notify the industry through the NTEA.

New Design

The new Silverado and Sierra trucks will include:

* A three-piece frame design, roll-formed mid section with a lipped edge to provide strength where it really is needed, and a rear C-section that supports the cargo bed.

* The new GM Vortec V-8 engines will be offered in the following displacements: 4.8-liter, 5.3-liter, and 6.0-liter.

* A dynamic rear proportioning brake system.

* An automatic transmission with tow haul mode-the transmission shifts automatically according to the conditions.

* Battery run-down protection.

* Engine coolant limp-home mode.

* Four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

Diesel Changes

The 6.5-liter turbodiesel has been refined for 1999. Among the changes: * The accessory drive includes a larger bearing for spin-on fan and improved durability.

* The throttle kickup procedure for the 6.5-liter diesel is carryover on the current design C/K and Sierra vehicles. The carryover preset settings are 1,070, 1,350, and 1,600 rpm.

Medium-Duty Update

Chevrolet and GMC announced a variety of refinements to the medium truck lineup for 1999.

Many of the changes involve engine availability. Among the engine changes is the addition of the Duramax 7.8-liter overhead cam diesel. It will be offered in ratings of 200 and 230 hp at 2,400 rpm on the T Series in February.

The new Vortec 7400 MD V-8 will be offered on the C Series. The engine will be rated at 210 or 270 hp at 3,750 rpm. It replaces the 6.0-liter rated at 225 hp and the 7.0-liter rated at 255 hp.

Electronic throttle control (ETC) will be offered, providing vehicle speed control, power management, engine-speed governing, road-speed governing, and power take-off option. By November, the PTO option will not require cruise control (K34).

Other changes to the GM lineup of medium-duty trucks include:

* Three new transmission offerings from Eaton.

* ABS will be added to hydraulic brake systems effective March 1. The requirement for ABS on air-brake systems has been in effect since March 1998. An ABS delete option will be offered for export sales.

* A grille delete option will be offered on the T50 hood of trucks powered by the 7.4-liter gasoline engine.

W Series Update

Changes on the W Series include:

* GVWR of the W4500 has increased to 14,050 pounds if equipped with 225/75R 19.5 tires.

* A 176-inch wheelbase will accommodate bodies up to 20 feet long.

* A new Isuzu diesel rated at 142 and 175 hp will be available on the W3500 and W4500.

* The W5500 will come with wheelbases ranging from 109" to 176".

Special Equipment Options General Motors has been at work on several special equipment options that are ready or will be shortly. They include:

* An auxiliary fuel tap for the C30903.

* Heavy-duty leaf front spring for the 15,000-lb GVW C31403 truck.

* The ability to have a GM dealer recalibrate the transmission and speedometer following the installation of high-rail gear on the C/K 2500 and C3500 models.

* A 55-gallon fuel tank for the G van and 03 cutaway chassis equipped with the YF2 ambulance package.

* A headliner delete option is now offered on the G-cutawau 03/32 models.

Miscellaneous News In other General Motors news: * The SVIE group that the truck equipment industry frequently calls for engineering questions has been renamed Upfitter Integration and has a new address. The commercial truck engineers now can be reached at (800) 875-4742. The address is: GM Truck Group-Upfitter Integration Troy Technology Park South, Building A MC: 483-619-241 1996 Technology Drive Troy MI 48083-4247

The toll-free hotline number for engineering questions is unchanged. Faxes can be sent at (248) 680-5112.

* Body builders manuals will have a new format-11x14 sheets in a three-ring binder. This format will enable the books to be updated as needed. They no longer will be published annually. Two publications will be distributed-one for light-duty trucks and another for medium and heavy vehicles.

* Special incentives are available to customers of commercial truck equipment. The Chevrolet "Commercial Customer Choice" and GMC "Fit for Profit" programs began October 1. The programs offer rebates between $300 and $900, depending on the amount of commercial truck equipment installed. Eligible models include current C/K pickups and chassis cabs, G, M/L, and Venture vans, commercial P chassis, and Silverado and Sierra chassis cabs.

Following the formal presentations, GM held a question-and-answer session. Here are some of the things NTEA members wanted to know:

Question: How will customers be able to tell which 1999 model truck they have?

Answer: The new trucks will have Silverado or Sierra badges. And the second digit for the current design has a zero. The new models will have a 5 instead-such as 10903 for the current model and 15903 for the new one.

Question: Would you clarify the pickup box removal program?

Steve Strine: Half- and three-quarter-ton models in 1999 are replaced with the new Silverado and Sierra models. Because testing for these models has not yet been completed, we cannot yet offer a pickup box removal program. Barrier testing will be complete by December 1998.

Question: How does installing snowplows on trucks that do not have the snowplow package affect warranty?

Tim Dunning: General Motors does not authorize snowplow applications on any vehicle that is not equipped with the VYU package. Installing them essentially renders the warranty invalid.

Strine: Adding to what Tim said, if the installation of the snowplow contributed to the problem, warranty could be denied.. But if the problem had nothing to do with the installation, the truck could be fully warranted.

Question: When will the snowplow prep package be available for Silverado and Sierra models?

Mike Soich: The three-quarter ton Silverado and Sierra extended cab models with an 8,600-lb GVW will have the VYU package available from the start of production. The three-quarter-ton regular-cab models will have it in November. No changes in availability of this package have been made for current C/K models.

Question: Has GM approved a set of front tow hooks for the two-wheel drive 3500 HD?

Soich: Not that we are aware of.

Question: Will GM add any chassis pools in the near future?

Soich: We are not adding any pools for chassis cabs, but we are interested in expanding the number of van and cutaway pools.

Question: When your heavier trucks come out as 2001 models, will they have the same cab as the light-duty models?

Mike Bailey, director of GMT800 chassis and powertrain: The cab will be the same, but it will be raised to provide more space for the engine and powertrain cooling and to accommodate higher GVWs.

Question: Will the new heavy-duty trucks have any changes other than sheet metal?

Soich: An all-new diesel engine will be available. We are building a new plant in Lorain, Ohio, to manufacture it. The new trucks also will be very competitive in all aspects-towing capacity, powertrain, and load-carrying capability.

Question: We sometimes sell snowplows over the counter. Are we responsible if that snowplow is installed on a truck that is not properly equipped?

Dunning: No, that purely would be the customer's choice. The liability would fall on the customer.

Question: If we as installers of snowplows receive a truck that does not have the VYU snowplow package, is there anything the dealer can do to upfit the vehicle so that we can install a snowplow?

Strine: The snowplow package includes higher-rated torsion bar and adjuster. It also can include additional cooling and a heavy-duty alternator. Yes, these items could be retrofitted, but I am not sure that we would change our snowplow maintenance records in such a case.

Dunning: You probably should seek the advice of your own legal counsel to find out what your obligation may be.

David Spence: Another thing to consider is that under the GMC Fit for Profit Program, we will not honor a rebate on a snowplow if it is installed on a truck not equipped with the VYU package. That could be as much as $900.

Soich: And for those who operate GMC or Chevrolet bailment pools, they are not to install snowplows on trucks that donot have the VYU package. If they do, they risk losing their pools. That is how strong our position is on this subject.

Question: We get a lot of requests for snowplows on the 3500 HD. This truck does not come in a four-wheel drive version, nor does it have the snowplow prep option. What is your position on mounting snowplows on the 3500 HD?

Strine: On the 15,000-lb GVWR chassis, if you stay within the GAWR when the snowplow is installed, no problem. And if the customer wants four-wheel drive, that option is offered through Monroe Truck Equipment in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Question: Will we see changes in the location of the mounting holes in the frame of the new Sierra and Silverado?

Bailey: Yes.

Strine: The locations are identified in the preliminary body builders book that is now available.

New Commercial Truck Rounds Out Ford's Super Duty F-Series Lineup AN expanded Super Duty F-Series, market outlook, and answers to frequently asked questions were among the highlights of the Ford segment of the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

The Super Duty F-Series will be almost heavy duty when the company introduces the new F-650 and F-750 this spring.

With their three heavier GVW ratings, the F-650 and F-750 will extend the Super Duty F-Series all the way to 33,000 pounds GVWR. The company already has Super Duty F-Series models from 8,500 to 19,000 pounds GVWR.

Production begins in March, and the trucks will go on sale in May, Gurminder Bedi, vice-president of the truck vehicle center, said at the Ford portion of the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

With the F-650 and F-750, the Super Duty F-Series will expand from its present 44 models to 50, according to Ken Farr, brand manager for the F-Super Duty line.

Three cab designs will be available-regular, SuperCab, and crew cab. The regular cab will be produced with a choice of five wheelbase and CA combinations. The SuperCab and crew cab models have three.

"We put the SuperCab and crew cabs on the longest wheelbases possible," said Tom Steckel, F-650/750 Super Duty brand manager. "We know that the industry can always shorten the wheelbase."

The new Class 6 and 7 trucks will come with a choice of three engine families: the Cummins ISB at 175, 190, and 195 hp; the Caterpillar 3126E from 190 to 250 hp, and the Powerstroke 7.3-liter at 210 hp. All engines are electronically controlled and certified for use in all 50 states.

The six manual transmissions will include Eaton five- and six-speed models, along with Spicer seven-speed and seven-speed overdrives. The Allison AT and World transmissions also will be offered.

Two brake systems will be available-a new four-wheel disc hydraulic system and air brakes with automatic slack adjusters and standard four-channel ABS.

About 80% of the F-650 and F-750 cab is common with the rest of the Super Duty line. The company is working to provide a seamless product line from Class 2 to the brink of Class 8. And instead of operating a light-duty truck operation that is distinct from medium and heavy truck sales, Ford is to integrating the Class 6 and 7 truck into the mainstream sales organization at Ford.

"This will allow us to offer a more standardized product, something Ford is good at doing," Steckel said. "We will target individuals and small fleets, which will allow us to use our broad base of 4,200 dealers to accomplish that."

Until last January, Ford's approach was one of mass marketing for the light truck line and custom manufacturing for medium and heavy trucks.

"We have tried to take the F-250 through F-550 products and bring them up to a slightly more custom building approach," Steckel said. "At the same time, we are adopting a somewhat more mass-marketing approach for the heavier trucks."

The current F-800 and its replacement, the Super Duty F-650/750 are being manufactured at the Ford plant in Cuautitlan, near Mexico City. The plant produces about 100,000 vehicles per year, including half of the Ford Contours and Mercury Mystiques sold in the US.

Other Items In addition to the news about the F-650 and F-750, Ford provided a list of changes-present and future-for its F-Series lineup. Among them:

* An aft-of axle fuel tank will be introduced in December. The tank will increase fuel capacity to 40 gallons instead of the current 36. For those who cannot use an aft-of-axle tank, Ford will begin offering an additional side tank that will increase fuel capacity to 42 gallons.

* Fifthwheel ride height. Some customers pulling fifthwheel trailers found it higher than what they wanted. Ford is scheduled to release a new spring for the F-250 before the end of 1998 that will be standard on the 4x2 and 4x4. A new spacer block also will be included on the 4x4. The result will be a two-inch reduction in fifthwheel height for the 4x4 F-250. For the F-350 with dual rear wheels, a two-inch spacer block will be standard instead of the current four-inch block. A service kit will continue to be available for the F-350 with single rear wheels.

* Additional CAs. An 84" CA will be available on the F-550 regular cab before December. Ford also is investigating the introduction of other CAs, including 108" on regular cab F-450 and F-550 and an 84" on the crew cab F-450 and F-550.

* Expanded towing capacity. Testing will be done by the end of the year that would provide 28,000- to 30,000-lb GCWs for some Super Duty F-Series.

* Snowplows. More SuperCab models and trucks equipped with the 6.8-liter gasoline engine will be able to accommodate snowplows. Ford also has received requests for crew-cab trucks for snowplow applications. Filling that request will require hardware changes, but Ford may have a crew-cab model ready for snowplow installations by August 1999.

Engineering Update Alex Jowa, section supervisor, quality programs & BBAS, provided answers to the list of questions his department receives on the Ford engineering hotline. Among them:

* PTO circuit will not respond. In many cases, the battery has been disconnected and memory has been lost. To restore the memory, drive the truck for about a mile. If that does not work, refer to the body builders book for additional diagnostics.

* Is the electronic control module (ECM) capable of remote control? No.

* Are Ford vehicles Y2K compliant? Yes, they will function after midnight December 31, 1999.

* Are CAD drawings available? We are working on this.

* Where do I find ignition hot source on the Super Duty F-Series? You can use Circuit 295. Refer to the body builders book for details on how to connect to this circuit.

The department has a new phone number, Jowa said. The old number had been saturated by calls from the general public. To make it easier to reach Ford engineers, Jowa requested that the number not be made public.

Alternate Fuels Ford's Dave Tarrant provided an update on company efforts in the area of alternative fuels

In November 1999, Ford will begin building a bifuel propane derivative of the Super Duty F-Series chassis cab based on the 6.8-liter engine. The normal operating mode of the engine will be propane fuel, but the bifuel trucks will have gasoline onboard. The system already is in production on the under-8,500-lb GVWR pickups.

"We will apply the lessons we have learned to the chassis cab segment," Tarrant said. "The engine will be fuel injected, producing performance and fuel economy virtually equal to gasoline and emissions capability better than gasoline."

The option will be offered initially on the F-350, F-450, and F-550 chassis cabs-both 4x2 and 4x4 models. The bifuel trucks will include primary and secondary tanks. At this point, Ford plans to offer a primary tank configuration consisting of the standard 19-gallon midship tank for gasoline and a propane tank of approximately 30 gallons. The propane tank would be mounted on the left framerail.

"This would be compatible with dumps, vans, and platforms," Tarrant said. "We also are considering a secondary configuration that would have the same gasoline tank but would have an aft-of-axle tank for service body applications. But we need you to tell us specifically what you like and don't like about each package."

"Working with the NTEA is absolutely vital to o ur success. By working together, we win together."

How Ford Sees the Truck Market Ford executives provided an array of sales data and market predictions during their portion of the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

Here is some of the information the company shared:

* The company has increased production capacity 21% since last year.

* Ford expects to sell about 800,000 F-Series pickups this year.

* Econoline sales are the best since 1978. Sales could be even better if the assembly line could get more engines, transmissions, and other supply-restricted components.

* Manufacturers sold 7.2 million trucks in 1997. Sales are expected to remain strong-7.5 million will be sold in 1998 and 7.2 million in 1999.

* 21% of F-Series are chassis cabs.

* Through August, Ford had received more than 61,000 incomplete vehicle orders for the Super Duty F-Series. Of those, about 16,000 were motor homes. Of the remaining 45,000 vehicles, 5% are pickups with the box-delete option. The rest are chassis cabs.

* More than half of the chassis cabs are F-450 and F-550 models, that are new this year. "We have more than 13,000 orders for the F-550," Ford's Dave Tarrant said. "That is huge for a GVW class that barely existed a few years ago. The F-350 chassis cab no longer occupies the prime position in our lineup. We have equalized the volume among the different GVW classes. Customers now are able to get the right size truck for the job."

* Extended and crew cabs are occupying a growing share of the chassis-cab market. "If you look at our F-350, a size where we have all three cab styles, the SuperCab has 14% and the crew cab has 7%. Regular cabs are now less than 80% of the market. People are finding new uses for these trucks and are finding new ways to apply these products. When we introduced the crew cab on chassis cabs, we received about 5,000 orders for F-450 and F-550 crew cabs. This is an amazing statistic. This industry is inventing new markets. I believe we will see a richer mix of SuperCabs and crew cabs in the future."

* Drive mix also is changing, Tarrant pointed out. Overall, less than a third of Ford chassis cabs are four-wheel drive. Only 28% of regular cabs are four-wheel drive, and 58% of SuperCabs and 42% of crew cabs are four-wheel drive. "If there is an interest in four-wheel drive, there probably is an interest in more cab space," Tarrant said.

Power Take-Offs and Ford Transmissions An automatic transmission with provisions for power take-offs has been on the truck equipment industry wish list for years. Ford has introduced one, and Larry Lindsey, project engineer, powertrain program management, offered some things to consider when installing PTOs on the new gearbox.

The 4R100 automatic transmission is rated at 120 ft-lb continuous duty and 170 ft-lb intermittent, Lindsey said. Intermittent means operation for periods of no more than 10 minutes.

Lindsey acknowledged some industry confusion about how to wire the PTO on this transmission.

"After the start of production, we revised the battery power circuit (shown in the body builders book as #640)," he explained. "It was changed to the 295 circuit because the 295 provided a separate fuse."

When operating the PTO in stationary operations, minimum engine speed is 1,200 rpm for diesel engines and 1,300 rpm for gasoline-powered trucks. The RPM restriction assures torque converter clutch lockup to minimize the generation of heat and to make sure the engine receives adequate lubrication.

In addition, Ford discussed installing engine-driven PTOs on the Super Duty F-Series. Until recently, the company would not endorse the installation of clutch pumps on its new 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gasoline engines. However, Ford has developed a kit that can be used to install engine-mounted clutch pumps. The kit includes a bearing support bracket designed to absorb the load that a clutch pump generates and a crankshaft adapter to provide fan clearance. Also included are a heavy-duty water pump and a heavy-duty fan clutch.

The clutch pump kit will be rated at 70 ft-lb, capable of driving pumps up to 17 gallons per minute. It will be available through a Ford-authorized distributor to be announced during the fourth quarter of 1998.

Auxiliary idle speed controller is an option for diesel applications. Two models replacing the current controller will be available beginning in January. One will be included in the ambulance package of the Super Duty F-Series and Econoline. A second, full-feature module will be offered as a standalone unit. It will offer remote activation and control, ramp up and ramp down, as well as additional interfaces such as PTO activation and overspeed control.

Ford Plans Limited Increase In Chassis Pools This Year The purpose is to provide Ford customers and dealers with quality upfitted products on a timely basis.

"We want to provide improved regional coverage," Ford's Jerry Mittman explained. "Some large metropolitan areas are without pools. Our secondary emphasis has been vocational areas such as utilities and recreational vehicles.

Mittman outlined a portion of what Ford expects from its pool accounts. Among the requirements:

* Commitment to and partnership with Ford and its dealers and customers.

* Sales of at least 200 units per year.

* Conduct sales training seminars for Ford truck dealers.

* Financial strength.

Pools are not without risks, Mittman warned. "If you ordered a lot of trucks for snowplows last year and you did not receive much snow, you had to find another application for those trucks. Otherwise, you had to pay a lot of interest on the trucks."

Ford plans to add a few pools during the next calendar year.

"Most of the expansion in our pool accounts is behind us," he said. "But a few areas remain that we want to address."

Pools may not represent as much business as some people think.

"Only about 5% of the Super Duty F-Series trucks go through pools," Mittman said. "That means 95% go outside the pool system. It is extremely important to Ford that we work together with companies that have pool accounts and those that don't."

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