Toyota Explores a Tundra Engine Menu Expansion

tundra-refinery

Within the last few weeks, Nissan has announced that it will be sourcing a line of diesel engines from Cummins (NYSE:CMI), a leading authority on power that designs and manufacturers — among other things — some pretty hefty diesel units for consumer applications. Now, it appears that another Japanese firm may be preparing to follow Nissan’s lead as Toyota (NYSE:TM) is exploring the idea of dropping a Cummins diesel option into its new Tundra.

“I think Cummins would bring instant name recognition and obviously they are a leader in diesel engine technology,” Toyota’s corporate manager for light trucks at Toyota Motor Sales USA Rick LoFaso told Edmunds. “That is not the first time we would have a tie up with somebody else,” he added, pointing to the company’s alliances with Tesla and BMW.

While American truck sales have been soaring on pent-up demand and an improving economy, Japanese models haven’t enjoyed the same kind of success. Ford’s (NYSE:F) F-150 and Chevrolet’s (NYSE:GM) Silverado have been routine first- and second-place finishers in the top ten best sellers for the last several months (at least), but the Tundra and Nissan’s Titan are nowhere to be seen.

This may be largely related to the wide discrepancy between engine offerings. While the Ford and Chevy have a slew of trims and engine pairings to choose from, Toyota — in comparison — has a conspicuous lack of variety in terms of powertrains. After giving the 2014 Tundra a refreshed exterior, it appears that the engine menu is Toyota’s next line of attack.

The new Tundra still offers two quite capable engines: at base, the truck is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, which offers 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 20 miles on the highway. Buyers can also pick a 5.7-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission, which returns 13 miles per gallon in city driving, and 18 miles per gallon on the highway. The problem, though, is that today’s trucks can now offer far superior fuel economy with little to no detriment to performance.

After Nissan’s announcement, Toyota’s decision to go with a diesel option would make the Tundra one of the very few light-duty pickups to have an oil-burner unit. For Ford and GM, the diesels are reserved for the larger, heavy-duty rigs. Ram Trucks only just introduced a diesel V6 unit for its light-duty Ram 1500.

By joining the diesel fray, Nissan and Toyota are hoping that the Cummins power plants will boost not just their trucks, but sales, as well. For the Tundra, Toyota is also considering diesel alternatives, as well.

“The diesel engine is something that is on our evaluation list,” LoFaso said during an interview at a press event here. “Hybrid technology is something that is on our evaluation list. Either one of those alternatives could deliver some pretty good real world fuel economy.”

In addition to improved fuel consumption figures, diesel engines also offer better torque specs than their gasoline counterparts, a crucial factor for those needing to tow large loads regularly. No timeline for a decision has been given, Edmunds notes.

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