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Economic Slowdown Can't Stop Truck Production

The editors of Fleet Owner magazine have done their homework to update you on all of the important changes to the 2004 models of trucks and vans, making it easier for you to make an informed decision if you're in the market for a new set of wheels.

The economy is still down, gas prices continue to rise, and the 0% financing deals that helped to buoy the automotive industry and boost the public's buying potential are no more, making the rest of 2003 and the first half of 2004 seem like a bad time to invest in a new truck. The fact that electrical contractors are taking a considerable hit during the construction slowdown isn't helping matters either. But as it turns out, truck manufacturers are still making improvements to their models, hoping to make them that much more appealing to a truck-buying demographic that's being forced to place an increased emphasis on the bottom line. Once again, the editors of Fleet Owner magazine have done their homework to update you on all of the important changes to the 2004 models of trucks and vans, making it easier for you to make an informed decision if you're in the market for a new set of wheels.


DaimlerChrysler. DaimlerChrysler's Sprinter greets the '04 model year as a Dodge but will be badged as a Freightliner through '06, according to the company. The Class 2 commercial van's cab/chassis version will debut this year, along with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

As with cargo and passenger versions of the Sprinter, the cab/chassis offers a choice of three wheelbases (118 in., 140 in., and 158 in.) and two GVWRs (8,550 lb and 9,990 lb). The truck boasts straight frame rails, integrated body-mounting rackets, and a fuel system integrated into the cab.

The ESP, which will only be available on 2,500 vans, reduces the danger of skidding by helping the driver handle critical situations more effectively. The ESP computer constantly compares the actual behavior of the van with precalculated target values. If the vehicle deviates from the line indicated by the driver's steering commands, a specially developed “logic” ensures that the system intervenes quickly.

Also new this year is a crew van option that places a rear bench in the cargo van. Other new Sprinter features and options include availability of additional windows around the cargo van and a heated windshield with rain sensor. Only 2,500 models will be equipped with a CARB-emissions-certified engine, as well as new 16-in. aluminum wheels.
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Information on the full line of DaimlerChrysler's Dodge 2004 pickups won't be available until later this summer, but the company has made it public that it will release a super high-performance version of the Dodge Ram, called the SRT-10. Powered by a 500-hp, 8.3-L V-10 gasoline engine, the new truck has 525 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 150 mph. It can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in about 5 sec.

The truck will be outfitted with the same engine from Dodge's Viper sports car line. The decision to pump up the power image of Dodge pickups can be traced to last year's inclusion of higher-power diesel engine options. The '03 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 models were specified with a “high output” turbodiesel 5.9-L Cummins engine, which produces 555 lb-ft of torque at 1,400 rpm and 305 hp at 2,900 rpm. Also new last year was the 5.7-L-HEMI Magnum gasoline V-8, which now serves as the standard engine on Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickup trucks. This power plant produces 345 hp at 5,600 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm.
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Ford Motor Co. is updating its popular 8,500-lb GVWR F-150 pickup for 2004 with a wide range of improvements. The '04 F-150 will be available in five models — XL, STX, XLT, FX4, and Lariat — with three cab options.

The regular cab offers a single row of seats and rearward-swinging doors that access a 13-in. wide storage area. The SuperCab is a two-door extended cab version that features a second row of seating that passengers can access via two rearward-swinging doors. The SuperCrew features two rows of seating and four forward-swinging, full-size doors.

The new F-150 also comes with three box lengths — 8 ft, 6.5 ft, and 5.5 ft — and two box styles. The SuperCab 5.5-ft box is a new offering and a full-size pickup exclusive. The fully boxed frame is about nine times stiffer torsionally than its predecessor, providing the foundation for improved durability, driving dynamics, and ride refinement and quietness.

Maximum tow rating is 9,500 lb, and maximum payload capacity is 2,900 lb. The F-150 is specified with Ford's new 5.4-L, 3-valve Triton V-8 engine, which produces 300 hp, a 15% improvement over the earlier model. New Occupant Position Sensing technology exceeds federal safety standards for air bag and offset crash performance.
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General Motors.

GM is adding some major new models to its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup lines in 2004, including a 1500 crew cab, a hybrid propulsion model, and a single-rear-wheel drive one-ton truck.

Silverado/Sierra hybrid “Flex Power” pickups, aimed at commercial users, go into production in January. GM is only outfitting 500 of these half-ton extended cab models, which feature the standard Vortec 5300 V-8 engine and Hydra-Matic 4L60-E 4-speed automatic transmission, with hybrid propulsion technology. The company expects demand to increase since the hybrids should show fuel economy gains of 10% to 15%, and offer 120V electrical power with ground fault detection and accessory-powering capability equivalent to a 20A household circuit. The hybrid will be available in 2WD and 4WD versions.

One-ton single-rear-wheel models of the Silverado/Sierra K3500 (4WD) will be available mid-year, as long-box pickups or chassis cabs.

New to the Silverado/Sierra 2500 Series is a shortbox crew cab model (2WD and 4WD).
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In 2004 Nissan Motor Co. is launching the Titan, a full-size pickup designed to go head to head with Ford's F-150. It will have a 5-speed automatic transmission and curtain airbags that run the length of the cab for more head protection. The Titan also features a fully boxed, closed ladder frame, independent double-wishbone front suspension, solid rear axle with dual-stage shackled leaf springs and offset shock absorbers, and the company's new 5.6-L V-8 engine with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.

Nissan's V8 aluminum engine block has cast-iron cylinder liners, a forged steel crankshaft, six-bolt main bearing caps, and a single steel timing chain. The company hasn't published production specs, but it promises more than 300 hp and at least 375 lb-ft of torque, as well as class-leading acceleration, towing capacity, and fuel economy.

Rear doors will open 180° and fold flush against the side of the bed, which will have a resin bed liner with a Utili-track system. These tracks serve as drawer slides or flexible mounting points, allowing for a wider variety of tie-down options and rack and compartment possibilities. An exterior compartment in the bed behind the left-rear wheel well can function as a tool storage area, and a 12V power point in the rear of the bed and an illuminated tailgate make the truck more jobsite friendly.

The Titan will launch first with a King Cab model, followed by a Crew Cab version.
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The 2004 Toyota Tundra will include a crew cab option available this fall, called the Tundra Double Cab, that measures 230 in., or 13 in. more than the '03 four-door option. The Double Cab's wheelbase is 12 in. larger and its cargo bed is 4 in. deeper. The new model has an additional 3 in. of height and 4 in. of width.

Other features include 60/40 split-fold-and-tumble seats, with a seatback angle of 24° and improved thigh support. The '04 Double Cab has a vertical power sliding full rear window, similar to that on Toyota's Sequoia SUV; all four of the door windows are fully retractable. A power sliding moon roof is optional.

A number of features have already moved from optional to standard on several '03 Tundra models, including antilock brakes, daytime running lights, keyless entry, and an anti-theft system. Toyota says it will continue this trend in its '04 lineup.
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Ford. For the 2004 model year, Ford is expanding customer choices in its medium-duty F-650 and F-750 line. For example, there will be 38 instead of 11 wheelbase options, providing a wheelbase to accommodate nearly all types of truck bodies. Five chassis heights, measured from the ground to the top of the frame, will be available, ranging from 28 in. to 37 in. For improved traction, the company is adding differential lock axles that engage both wheels. Air brakes will be available in GVWRs as light as 20,000 lb., and hydraulic brakes will be available in GVWRs as heavy as 33,000 lb.

Engine options have also been expanded. International Truck & Engine Corp.'s Power Stroke diesel engine, produced exclusively for Ford, will be available in four power ratings; two power ratings have been added to the Caterpillar options, and Cummins engines will continue to be available.

The E-Series Van continues to build on previous enhancements. Power mirrors became standard last year and include a driver-side power flat lens and passenger-side power convex lens. Daytime running lights are optional, and a full-length vinyl floor covering for commercial vans is now standard.

For E-Series Cutaway and Chassis cabs, a 6.8-L V-8 gasoline engine is now standard, with a 7.3-L diesel option. E-350, E-450, and E-550 models are available in five wheelbase sizes: 159 in., 177 in., 191 in., 209 in., and 233 in. The E-Series Chassis cab comes with a back panel and an optional rear glass window with slider.
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Freightliner LLC has added two new models — the M2 100 and M2 112 — to its medium-duty business class line. Available in GVWRs from 16,000 lb to 26,000 lb, the M2 100 comes standard with a Mercedes-Benz MBE900 engine. It's available in 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder versions with horsepower ratings from 170 hp to 250 hp. Available transmissions include the Mercedes-Benz MBT 6-speed manual, Eaton-Fuller 6-speed or 7-speed manuals, and Allison automatics. Front axle ratings range from 6,000 lb to 10,000 lb, and rear axles range from 10,000 lb to 17,500 lb.

The M2 112 has a 112-in. BBC measurement and is available in GVW ratings to 66,000 lb. M2 112 options include a factory-installed crew cab and extended cab. Available as truck or tractor, the M2 112 offers front axles rated from 12,000 lb to 20,000 lb and rear axles to 46,000 lb. Freightliner's AirLiner rear suspension and heavy-duty TufTrac suspensions with ratings of 40,000 lb and 46,000 lb are optional. The M2 112 boasts a 1,200-sq-in. radiator and standard Mercedes-Benz MBE4000 engine with horsepower ratings to 450 hp. Caterpillar engines are optional. Eaton Fuller AutoShift and manual 10-speed and 13-speed and Allison HD Series automatics are available.

The company has launched a straight rail (SR) version of its MT-45 diesel chassis. A new 8-in. tall, steel straight-rail frame enhances overall strength and reliability. GVWRs range between 14,140 lb and 19,000 lb; payload capacity is 10,000 lb.

And Freightliner LLC is bringing the Class 6 and Class 7 Unimog U500 to the United States and Canada for specialized vocational applications. It will come in two GVWs — 26,000 lb or 33,000 lb — and with a standard 132-in. or optional 154-in. wheelbase.
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General Motors.

After turning its new medium-duty chassis — the GMT560 — into the Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick models last year, GM will offer a new factory-built four-door crew cab for its '04 C5500 Chevy Kodiak/GMC TopKick models that can hold as many as six people. Later this year, the crew cab will be available in GVWRs ranging from 16,500 lb to 61,000 lb, in a variety of wheelbases, and with gasoline or diesel engines. Two additional GVW ratings — 22,000 lb and 25,950 lb — provide the kind of payload capacity previously available only on larger Class 6 trucks.

The Kodiak and TopKick C4500-C5500 series (Class 4 and Class 5) trucks are available in regular and commercial cutaway chassis cabs, as well as vocational applications. The C4500 has a GVWR of 16,000 lb, while the C5500 comes in 18,000 and 19,500 GVWR versions. The heavier end of the Kodiak/TopKick line includes the C6500, C7500, and C8500 series, with GVWRs ranging from 19,501 lb to 61,000 lb.

In '04, the Chevy/GMC T-series low-cab-forward line (Class 6 through Class 8) will have a new chassis and feature a number of components currently found on GM's conventional C-series. A new tandem-axle model, rated to 56,000 lb GVW and a new tractor model will both be rolled out early next year. Changes to the chassis and frame will mean that the T-series vehicles can take a wider range of truck bodies. The Duramax 7800 diesel is the engine spec for the T-Series. In addition to the current 250-hp model, 275-hp and 300-hp versions will be released in '04.
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Although details won't be divulged until later this year, the big news from Hino Diesel Trucks is that it will offer a conventional cab in 2004. For now, Class 4 through Class 7 cabovers remain the company's primary product line.

Hino's Class 4 FA4J series trucks have a GVWR of 15,000 lb, and are powered by 4-cylinder diesel engines that use 5-speed direct-drive synchromesh transmissions or 4-speed Allison AT542 automatics. Capacity for the FA has increased, with wheelbases now ranging from 115 in. to 165 in.

GVWR for the Class 5 FB4J series is 17,600 lb., and the trucks are powered by 4-cylinder diesel engines.

In Class 6, Hino offers the FD2J Series and the FE2J series. GVWR is 23,000 lb., and wheelbase options range from 148 in. to 217 in. to accommodate 16-ft to 24-ft bodies. FE vehicles have a GVWR of 25,995 lb and can accommodate 16-ft to 28-ft bodies.

Hino's Class 7 offerings include the FF2J series and SG2J series. The FF, designed for 18-ft to 26-ft bodies, has a GVWR of 30,000 lb. GVWR for the SG2J series is 32,900 lb, and a wheelbase of 244 in. accommodates 19-ft to 28-ft bodies. SGs have 4-valve overhead cam, 6-cylinder diesel engines, and an engine-driven PTO option is available on trucks with manual or automatic transmissions.
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A new entry to the market this year is Hyundai Truck America (HTA). In the past, Hyundai marketed its truck cabs through the now-defunct Bering Truck Corp. HTA is taking over where Bering left off, but it's moving into the medium-duty market slowly, offering chassis in two vehicle classes.

The Class 4 HLD150 and Class 6 HMD230 and HMD260 trucks are all cabovers. Standard features include ABS brakes, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering column, cruise control, front- and rear-axle shock absorbers, power windows and door locks, air suspension for the driver's seat, and reading lamps for drivers and passengers.

The HLD150 is powered by a 160-hp DDC 638 engine and equipped with an Allison AT542 4-speed automatic transmission; GVWR is 14,510-lb. The HMD230 (23,000-lb GVWR) and HMD260 (25,510-lb GVWR) are powered by 215-hp Cummins ISB engines. Transmissions are ZF 6S-850 6-speed synchronized overdrive manuals. The HMD230 is offered in five wheelbases, the HMD260 in two.
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International Truck & Engine Corp.'s latest addition to its medium-duty 4000 series is the International 4400 4×2 Mid Cab tractor. Standard power for the 4400 is the International DT466 diesel rated 215 hp and 620 lb-ft of torque. DT466 engines with ratings to 250 hp and DT530 engines with ratings to 300 hp are options.

Standard features on the 4400 include a cab air suspension and a parabolic, taper-leaf front suspension system with tuned shock absorbers. In addition, the truck features a lighter, stronger frame backed by a 7-year limited warranty.
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For model-year 2004, the Isuzu F-series low-cab-forward line (Class 6 through Class 8) will have a new chassis and feature a number of components currently found on GM's conventional C-series models. The company will roll out a new tandem-axle model early next year, rated to 56,000-lb GVW, as well as a new tractor model. Single-axle models with GVWRs of 19,501 lb to 39,000 lb are also available. Changes to the chassis and frame will enable these vehicles to accept a wider range of truck bodies.

The F-Series is currently powered by Isuzu's 6HK1 7.8-L engine, with horsepower ratings of 200 hp to 250 hp. A 275-hp to 300-hp rating will be available early next year. The engine can be slotted to deliver multiple torque outputs, ranging from 520 lb-ft to 860 lb-ft, depending on the application.

New to the FTR, FTV, and FXR models for '04 will be Allison automatic transmissions (2000 series, MD 3060, and 3560), improved brake systems, 19.5-in. and 22.5-in. wheels, traction control, and a 16,000-lb front axle.

Isuzu's medium-duty lineup also includes three Class 3 through Class 5 N-series low-cab-forwards (NPR, NPR HD, and NQR), with crew cab options on the NPR HD and NQR. The NPR and NPR HD are available with diesel or gasoline engines; the NQR is only available with diesel.
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Kenworth Truck Co. has made numerous improvements to its T300 medium-duty conventional model. The T300 is available as a single or tandem-axle straight truck or tractor in a variety of wheelbases, with air or hydraulic brakes, in GVWs from 26,000 lb to 54,000 lb.

The biggest news is the creation of an aftermarket crew cab conversion for the T300 in conjunction with Bentz Transport Products. Standard features include a one-piece fiberglass roof with a 4-in. raised rear section that provides 62 in. of height in the interior. The rest of the crew cab is constructed of aluminum, with a 52-in. long addition that's 84 in. wide at the rear. The crew cab has a 157-in. BBC and features Kenworth Daylite door assemblies and door panels, granite gray vinyl interior trim, interior upper B-pillar and exterior grab handles and DuPont Imron 5000 paint. Crew cab options include a separate heater or heater/air conditioner, stainless steel cab accessories, an extended horizontal exhaust pipe, and carpet and custom trim packages. Bench, bucket, and fire-service SCBA seats are available.

Other T300 news includes availability of the Caterpillar C7 ACERT engine, which replaces the Cat 3126. And high-capacity hydraulic brake configurations are offered on C7-powered T300s. The newly available Bosch hydraulic brake and Dana Spicer axle component ratings allow GVW ratings to reach 33,000 lb. Previously, hydraulic brake equipment was offered for T300 models as heavy as 26,000 lb.

An option that provides an air supply for air-operated accessories on 4×2 T300s with hydraulic brakes expands the engine, transmission, suspension, and other air components available on models with hydraulic brakes.
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Mitsubishi Fuso.

Big changes are ahead as Mitsubishi Fuso gears up for the 2004 engine emissions regulations. For now, however, the company is touting the FH 210 model and FE-SP crew cab that were introduced last year.

The FH 210 is a Class 5 vehicle available at a GVW of 17,000 lb with a sister truck, the 211, available at 17,995 GVW. Wheelbases are 130.3 in., 150 in., 169.7 in., 181.5 in., and 191.7 in.; cab-to-axle lengths of 106.2 in., 125.9 in., 145.6 in., 157.4 in., and 168.9 in.; and overall lengths of 222.6 in., 257.3 in., 285.4 in., 302.6 in., and 318.3 in.

The front axle is a reverse Elliott I-beam type, with a capacity of 7,275 lb. The rear axle is the fullfloating type, with 16,975-lb capacity. Front suspension has heavy-duty laminated leaf springs with shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar, while the rear has heavy-duty laminated leaf springs. The steering is ball-nut type, with integral-type hydraulic power booster, and the telescopic tilt-steering column has steering lock. The FH 210 features a 175-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine and automatic transmission.

The FE-SP crew cab is a Class 4, 14,500-lb GVW truck with four doors and room for seven passengers. The front-axle rating is 5,360 lb, while the rear is 9,880 lb. The wheelbase spec is 165.4 in. The engine, model 4M50T2, is a turbocharged diesel with maximum torque of 347 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm. The transmission is 4-speed automatic, 175 hp.

Among other changes, Mitsubishi has discontinued its 13,500-lb GVW model, upgrading it to 14,050-lb for all states. The Class 3 lineup now comprises the FE 639 at 12,000-lb GVW, FE 649 at 14,050 lb, and SP at 14,500 lb.
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Peterbilt Motors Co. is making a crew cab version of its medium-duty model 330 available via a new program with Bentz Transport Products. The integrated crew cab seats five people and measures 52-in. long and 84-in. wide at the rear of the cab for a 160-in. BBC. The roofline has been increased by 3 in., allowing a 61-in. interior height throughout the cab.

Available options for the Model 330 crew cab include additional lighting, auxiliary heating, and air conditioning. There is a choice of bench, air-ride, sleeper-sofa, and fire-crew and “officer” seating that accommodates a self-contained breathing apparatus.

All model 330s are equipped with a new ergonomic tilt steering wheel. The Class 6 and Class 7 trucks are now available with Eaton Fuller manual and automated mechanical transmissions, as well as Allison automatics.
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Sterling Truck Corp. has added a new model, the Acterra Crew Cab, to its medium-duty line. The crew cab features a 163-in. BBC and is available with GVW ratings from 19,000 lb to 46,000 lb. The passenger compartment measures 113 in. from the front to the rear wall inside the cab, making it longer on the inside than any other factory crew cab on the market.

It features monocoque, all-welded steel cab construction, reinforced with corrosion-resistant galvanized steel panels. Air-ride cab suspension is standard. Standard fixed or optional air ride seating is available for front passengers, and there is a standard three-person bench seat in the rear. Sterling is also making a crew cab option available on its Acterra SportChassis model, which is aimed at the recreational towing market.

The company has also announced a factory-authorized AWD conversion available for Acterra models. The AWD feature, manufactured by Fabco Automotive Corp., is available now on all Acterra 4×2 versions and should be on Acterra 634 trucks by the end of this year. The conversion is offered with front axle ratings of 12,000 lb, 14,000 lb, or 16,000 lb and comes with a choice of one- or two-speed transfer cases. AWD is available on Acterras equipped with Mercedes-Benz and Caterpillar medium-duty engines and with DaimlerChrysler Powersystems, Eaton Fuller, or Allison transmissions. The AWD has an offset front drive carrier axle and four-shaft transfer case to ensure vehicle height increases only 4 in. to 6 in. over standard height.

Coupled with no step-frame modifications, the conversion retains frame integrity and durability, maintains a low center of gravity, and eliminates as much as 300 lb of weight. The AWD system is engaged through two electro-pneumatic switches on the dash.
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UD Trucks.

Nissan Diesel America says the first changes to its UD Trucks lineup since 1999 will take place when the company rolls out its '05 vehicles next year. For '04, however, Class 3-7 UD trucks will undergo only minimal changes. The lineup includes the UD 1200, at 12,000-lb GVWR; the 1400, at 14,250-lb GVWR; the 1800CS (City Spec) and 1800HD (Heavy-Duty), at 17,995 lb GVWR; the 2300LP (Low-Profile) and 2300DH (Dock-Height), at 23,000-lb GVWR; the 2600 at 25,995 lb GVWR; and the 3300, with a GVWR of 32,000 lb.

Nissan Diesel says the heart of its trucks remains the FD46TA turbocharged diesel engine. Engine ratings are 145 hp for the 1200 and 1400; 175 hp for the 1800CS; and 225 hp for the heavier vehicles. The 1800HD through 3300 models can be equipped with the MLS61B, 6-speed overdrive manual transmission. Allison automatics are available on 1800HD through 3300 models.
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Workhorse Custom Chassis.

Some big changes are on the horizon for Workhorse's line of medium-duty step vans, like the expansion of the “Fas-Track” step van program. It offers vans in five sizes, with a variety of pre-set interior designs. GVW ratings for the five models range from 8,000 lb to 16,000 lb, including the W-series 19,500-lb GVWR model, which was designed for fleets that need heavier load capacity.

For Workhorse's 10,000-lb to 14,100-lb GVWR trucks, the Cummins ISB 4-cylinder engine and Allison 1000 series 5-speed electronic transmission remain the option for fleets that use diesel power. Two new powertrains — with higher horsepower and torque — will be available for the 8,600-lb to 16,000-lb chassis in '04: a 4.8-L 276-hp Vortec gasoline engine that produces 285 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, and a 6.0-L 300-hp Vortec gasoline engine that produces 255 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
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