Mitsubishi Shifts to Automatic Transmission

MITSUBISHI Fuso Truck of America has taken its FG model to a new level. The FG, a Class 3, 12,000-lb FVWR truck that previously was the only four-wheel drive, medium-duty cabover on the American market, is now available with an automatic transmission for the first time since the truck was introduced nine years ago.

The 2001 FG, which is expected to be available in June or July, is targeted for contractors and landscaping/lawn service businesses. Mitsubishi doesn't believe the cabover design would limit snowplow applications, and that is a market they want to tap into. Bob Aquaro, vice-president of product planning and assurance, expects the Aisin four-speed electronic automatic transmission to be a huge hit.

"Those people are not truck drivers," he said. "Their business is to do other things and the truck is a tool. They don't want manual transmissions.

"We just don't have drivers that are capable of driving manual transmissions anymore. The young guys that are learning how to drive don't drive manuals. When they grow up to be adults, they don't drive manuals, either. It's basically a driver issue. The US is predominantly an automatic transmission country, whereas other countries couldn't care less. Putting in automatic (on the FG) is going to provide a whole lot of market acceptance of the truck."

The 2001 FG features a 145-hp engine and 275 ft-lb of torque, up from 135 hp and 253 ft-lb. It is equipped with the same PTO, supplied by Chelsea Auxiliary Power, that has been available on the two-wheel drive.

The primary issue in developing the 2001 FG was the length of the automatic transmission. "The transfer case mounted behind it was different as far as the engineering," Aquaro said. "Once we were able to accommodate the additional length of the transmission and some correction in the drive-line angle compared to the manual, that wasn't a big deal. From a bodybuilding standpoint, it shouldn't have any greater impact on them than the normal two-wheel drive automatic transmission vehicle."

A Shift to Automatic The 2001 FG is just part of the shift to automatic transmissions in America. Fifty percent of the Class 5 trucks now sold by Mitsubishi are equipped with automatic transmissions, Aquaro said. In five years, Class 3 trucks won't come equipped with manual transmissions.

"Get ready for the automatic onslaught," he said, "because it's coming."

Aquaro, in his convention presentation, announced the April introduction of a 14,050-lb GVWR truck that will be available only in California, where the emissions requirements are more rigid. It will be available only with an Aisin automatic transmission and in body lengths of 10 to 18 feet.

On Mitsubishi's Class 6 and 7 trucks, harness extensions for ABS systems are available in lengths of two feet and six feet, primarily to accommodate body companies that are building beverage bodies.

"In order to not have these guys cutting harnesses and trying to splice them together, we came up with extension harnesses that will accommodate a drop-frame truck, available through our dealers," Aquaro said. "Don't cut the ABS wires. You're just opening yourself for a handful of liability problems."

Describing the FE series Class 3 and 4 cabovers, Aquaro said Mitsubishi prides itself on low controlled curb weight.

"In the body business, that's a major factor for the consumer," he said. "The lighter we can make the truck, the more payload you can carry. If you look at our curb weights compared to some of our competitors in the cabover range, you're going to find we're a couple of pounds lighter."

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