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Cummins plans to build a new light-duty diesel engine in Columbus, starting with a new global partner, Nissan, which will use the product in its next-generation Titan pickup.
Cummins already has begun to add employees but will ramp up production next year, ultimately hoping to add as many as 500 jobs, more than doubling Columbus Engine Plant’s current workforce of 300.
The company said it will deliver the first new engines in the fourth quarter of 2014 to customers who will use the engine to power commercial vehicles, including buses, vans and light trucks.
Cummins and Nissan formed the partnership to allow both companies to make inroads into the light-duty pickup market’s diesel segment, in which they currently have no product.
The 5-liter V8 engine would have an output of more than 300 horsepower and at least 500 pound-feet of torque, according to Cummins.
In comparison, the 6.7-liter medium-duty engine Cummins makes for the Ram trucks generates in excess of 350 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Linebarger said Tuesday that some consumers have shied away from larger diesel trucks because of the higher price and because they do not need the power, he said.
Cummins believes, however, that a segment of the truck-buying population will opt for a lighter diesel-
powered truck because of the better reliability and fuel economy.
Linebarger said that the new engine will provide dependability and a balance of power, performance and fuel economy, which could be appealing to buyers of pickups to delivery truck drivers and contractors loading materials into the back of their vans or pickups.
“It is a big day for everyone here,” Linebarger said, as he stood on a small podium on the second floor of the engine plant, large windows behind him showing the machinery on the production floor.
The number of new positions and ultimate economic impact will depend upon the diesel-powered Titan’s popularity. Wages for new employees will be comparable to other plants and start at $11 to $12 per hour, said Jeff Caldwell, general manager of the company’s pickup business.
Other factors were not immediately clear at Tuesday’s announcement, including:
Nissan is looking to increase its share of the light pickup market, which it projects could reach about 300,000 vehicles in the U.S. Nissan has but a small share of the market, compared with the top-selling trucks from Ford, Chevrolet and Ram. Nissan sold 22,000 Titans last year. Even in a bad year, Cummins ships about three times as many midrange diesel engines to power Ram trucks.
Linebarger said after the announcement that lackluster Titan sales contributed to Nissan’s decision to form the partnership with Cummins.
“For them, this is a big opportunity,” Linebarger said.
Cummins produces the 6.7-liter diesel engine at Columbus MidRange Plant near Walesboro for the 2500 and 3500 versions of the Ram pickup. The light-duty diesel that will power the Titan initially was conceived by Cummins for the 1500 version of the Ram, but that project was scuttled by the bankruptcy of Ram’s parent, Chrysler.
The diesel-powered light pickup market has gained some traction in recent months, as both Ram and Ford announced models with a 3-liter V6 this summer.
Unlike some of the Titan Turbo Diesel’s rivals, however, the new engine for the Titan was designed specifically for the light-duty truck, not revised from other applications, Linebarger said. The Ram’s light-duty diesel, for example, also powers the Jeep Cherokee. That engine was designed by Italy-based VM Motori, partially owned by Chrysler’s new parent, Fiat.
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