Better known for its pickup trucks and passenger cars, Ford Motor Co. is rapidly growing its slice of the medium-duty truck market.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker has steadily stolen business from rivals such as Daimler Trucks’ Freightliner brand and Navistar International Inc. since introducing new work trucks in the Class 6 and 7 weight segments last year.
The trucks are used for beverage and food distribution, for moving and storage and as utility vehicles, digger derricks, box trucks, dump trucks and tow trucks.
Much of the automaker’s growth has come from being the only manufacturer to offer a gasoline engine option for such Class 6 and 7 vocational trucks.
“The gas engine trucks are stellar performers and have become popular because they are typically less expensive and require less maintenance than diesel engines,” said Kevin Koester, Ford’s medium-duty truck and Super Duty fleet marketing manager.
The gas engine truck sells for $8,000 to $10,000 less than its diesel engine counterpart, Koester said.
Since Ford moved its medium-duty truck production back to the U.S. from Mexico in 2015, its trucks have become popular among municipalities, cities and states with “Buy American” provisions in their purchase contracts, Koester said.
Ford builds the trucks at its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio. Engines and other main components come from the automaker’s other plants.
According to industry data obtained by Trucks.com, purchasers have registered 11,751 Ford trucks in the segment through September, a 55 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. That gave Ford a 19.9 percent share of the Class 6 and 7 truck market, an increase from its 14.3 percent share in 2015.
Ford is taking market share from just about every other manufacturer. Freightliner, the leader in the segment, has dipped to 35.4 percent from 36.9 percent a year ago. Navistar, the No. 2 player, has seen its share dip to 22.4 percent from 24.6 percent.
Hino, ranked fourth, has 11.7 percent of the market, down from 13.2 percent. Kenworth has dipped to 6.3 percent from 6.4 percent, and its sister company Peterbilt is down to 4.2 percent from 4.5 percent.
Although the other manufacturers in the segment have lost market share to Ford, all but Hino are still logging sales gains. That is because this year’s overall sales in the segment grew to 60,000 trucks through September, about an 11 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier.
Ford is selling to customers such as Wright Tree Service Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. The company has added 300 F-650 and F-750 vehicles to its fleet over the past three years, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, the company’s fleet manager.
The company is replacing all of its older diesel trucks with the gas variant.
“The gas engines are popular in our industry because of complicated diesel emissions rules coming from the Environmental Protection Agency” and other regulators, Fitzpatrick told Trucks.com. “We have not noticed any issues regarding power with the gas versus diesel engines.”
Ford’s 6.8-liter V-10 gas engine packs 320 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, while its 6.7-liter V-8 turbo engine has 270 horsepower and 675 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is available on both the F-650 and F-750 trucks.
The 6.8 -liter engine also can be factory prepped for converting to compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas fuel.
A Navistar executive said the company is “very aware” of Ford’s market share growth, which he attributes to the gasoline engine option.
Navistar doesn’t offer a gasoline engine for medium-duty trucks, but it does have a new line of its IC brand school buses equipped with 8.8-liter V-8 gasoline engines.
“We look at the mix every month, and currently our gasoline development has been primarily focused on school buses with gasoline engines next year,” said Jeff Sass, senior vice president of Navistar’s North America truck sales and marketing. “We will have demonstration buses running throughout 2017. We will evaluate its performance in school buses where we see it as a perfect application and then we will evaluate to see whether it goes into our medium-duty production.”
Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner M2 106 remains the diesel-engine leader in the Class 6 and 7 market. The company has no plans to offer a gasoline-powered engine in the medium-duty truck market in the near future, Freightliner said.
“Diesel will continue to be the fuel of choice in the Class 6 and 7 commercial vehicle markets,” Mary Aufdemberg, director of product marketing at Freightliner, told Trucks.com. “Relative to gasoline engines, diesel engines have a long service life and maximum efficiency with the ability to move heavy loads with lower RPM’s and higher torque.
Editor's note: A previous edition of this story incorrectly referred to Kevin Fitzpatrick as Kevin Kilpatrick.