Dear Truck Trend,
Oh dear, so small-displacement diesels and Euro vans are making headway into the U.S.? I can't say I'm excited at the prospect. Coming from the U.K., my mates and I could only dream of operating American V-8 iron wrapped in a cool-looking ride during the course of our daily business, but even though we could have such a vehicle privately imported, high tax levies and other running costs along with a lack of service dealers meant that this ideal would remain a non-starter.
Now happily living in the U.S. and enjoying the sights and sounds of American cars, I am disappointed to read about the continuing Euro-box invasion, not least of the commercial van and light-duty pickups. To me, these vehicles are dreary, uninspiring, and look cheap compared with U.S.-designed and -built machines.
At the risk of sounding a bit weird, compare the stylish engineering of the wheel hubcaps of a GMC Savana, for example, with the covers thrown on the Fiat Ducato, aka Ram ProMaster, which wouldn't look out of place sitting on top of a trash can. That massive expanse of black plastic molding incorporating the radiator grille and bumper is a poor excuse for a face, and is just plain ugly. I won't start on small Euro trucks like the Ford Ranger, but I hope Ram Truck considers reintroducing a new U.S.-design-influenced (and preferably U.S.-built) Dakota with the V-8 option intact.
As for low-capacity oil burners, I remember all too well those cold winter mornings, firing up my four-cylinder diesel Mercedes Sprinter and not feeling any comfort from inside the freezing cab as I made my way to the depot. My neighbors no doubt knew I was on my way, too, rudely awakened by the noisy clatter of the gutless engine at 5:30 a.m. every weekday. Underpowered and sparsely equipped, it was a bore to drive.
I understand that manufacturers here are required to meet ever stringent Californian -- sorry, I mean U.S. -- government regulations and efficiency figures while cutting costs to remain competitive, but that's no excuse to offer goods that are dull and unattractive! Would the A-Team's choice of transport have had the same "wow" factor for every kid watching if they'd zoomed around in a Renault Trafic?
The U.S. and U.K. share a common history. With respect to diesel engines and vans, are we forced to share a common future as well?
It has taken a while for the American market to get used to Euro styling, but we are adapting. Buyers will determine which of the new generation of vans, from Europe or not, will stick around. If the vans are ugly yet spectacular, people will buy them because they do a great job. And while we realize that not all diesel engines are created equal, we have heard time and again that these Euro diesels have been adapted for use in North America. If it turns out that they don't cut it, the manufacturers will have to do something to make the engines appeal to potential buyers. No, we can't picture Mr. T jumping out of a ProMaster or a Sprinter, but we can't imagine the Express and Savana are going to stick around too much longer, either. At some point, GM is going to be forced to make the same decision Ram Truck and Ford did -- either replace its vans with something from Europe or make serious improvements to the vans that are already here.
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