Saturday 31 August 2013

Wider market seen for Cummins V8 CGI diesel

Cummins Inc. is developing a version of the V8 Turbo Diesel for commercial vehicle customers and this could widen the application of the new diesel beyond the first application which is Nissan’s next-generation Titan pick-up truck.

To accommodate this, Cummins has said that its ‘historic’ Columbus Engine Plant (CEP) is being readied to build the new Cummins 5-litre V8 Turbo Diesel for Nissan's next-generation Titan, and will require additional personnel to fulfil the programme, though at this stage Cummins HR department is not revealing numbers.

"This is an exciting announcement for our Cummins team," said Tom Linebarger, chairman and chief executive officer of Cummins Inc. "We are bringing our innovation and latest technology in engines and after-treatment products to a new segment of customers. Importantly, this will help us grow our own business as well as allow us to help an important new partner, Nissan, succeed in the market."

However, Linebarger gave no clue as to which of its engines would be the next Cummins diesel to adopt compacted graphite iron (CGI) technology that is at the heart of the new 5-litre V8. Nor did he elaborate on who would be the next customer for the V8 Turbo Diesel; one step at a time for Linebarger. Nevertheless, Nissan is a big milestone for Cummins and one that the Columbus company executives will be happy to talk about for a while to come.

That Nissan is a ”new customer” is an important issue that will play a vital part is helping to swell Cummins coffers in the years ahead, partly compensating for the heavy revenue earning costs the engine maker has had to bear until the market proved “right” for the new V8.

What are the manufacturing numbers likely to be in a full year? And to what extent will these numbers impact on the ramp-up of production at CEP?

In 2012, Ford sold 584,917 of its F-Series pick-up trucks. The Chevrolet Silverado came in second spot with 415,130 units sold with the Dodge Ram in third place with 244,762 units. In contrast, in 2012, Nissan sold 21,994 of its all-be-it aging Titan pick-up truck. One-tenth of the Ram for which Chrysler recently announced would carry a CGI vee diesel from VM Motori of Italy.

In a full year, if Nissan managed to convert one-third of its Titan sales to diesel engines, this would give Cummins an annual production volume of 8,000 units. Not a big number but sufficient at 160 a week or 30 a day for manufacturing staff to deal with the vicissitudes of producing a ‘brand new’ engine.

Although Cummins ‘management’ will be only too anxious to find new customers with equal or more annual sales potential volume to that of Nissan, on the shop floor manufacturing staff will be only too happy to deal with a more gradual ramp up.

                         Glare of publicity

As Cummins manufacturing engineers have not as yet had to cope with machining CGI material under the fierce glare of the publicity associated with the launch of a new engine, they will be grateful for such low numbers until they have fully ironed out any ‘glitches’. Later, however, there will be pressure on sales staff to sell more of the plant's capacity to maximise returns on investment.  

Meanwhile, engineering prototype Titan trucks powered by Cummins engines are currently undergoing extensive on-highway testing.

The automaker is counting on the Cummins diesel to provide light truck customers with a combination of towing capacity and fuel economy that will give the Titan a key advantage in the highly competitive US pickup truck market.

"The partnership with Nissan on the V8 program benefits not only Cummins employees, but also our community," said Jeff Caldwell, general manager of Cummins' pickup truck business, who started his 31-year career with Cummins at CEP. "The innovative and lightweight design of the 5-litre V8 Turbo Diesel is a perfect fit for the customer who wants V8 performance with diesel efficiency. It broadens Cummins' range of products and provides a new clean diesel option for our customers."

Fred Diaz, divisional vice president, Nissan sales and marketing, service and parts, Nissan USA, said Nissan is also excited about the partnership.

"There is no question that the new Titan will turn heads, and with the available Cummins 5-litre V8 Turbo Diesel we expect to win new fans and attract buyers looking for this unique configuration," he said.

Caldwell said the announcement is a testament to the company's determination and commitment to innovation. Cummins first announced it was building a light duty diesel engine at CEP in 2006 but a global economic downturn delayed the project. This oblique reference to the past is perhaps the only clue that points to the huge delay in Cummins adopting CGI technology for front-line production diesel engines.

Caldwell however made specific mention of the fact that it has been the CGI technology that has played such a major part in the company’s ability to create such its “innovative and lightweight design”.

The Brazilian foundry Tupy SA in Joinville has also played an important part in the design and development of the new V8. Tupy also supplies the 6.7-litre V8 CGI block for Ford's Scorpion F-Series pick-up truck engine made at the company's Chihuahua Engine Plant in mexico. Ford has long been a champion of CGI vee diesel engines.

Caldwell said the V8 team had continued to make “refinements” to the engine during the downturn, and then incorporated specific customer needs once an agreement had been reached with Nissan.

The engine meets the latest emissions regulations, drawing on the best of innovation at Cummins, including turbo technology, filters from the company's filtration business, Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology from Cummins Emission Solutions and more.

In addition to its partnership with Nissan, Cummins is developing a version of the V8 Turbo Diesel for commercial vehicle customers. This could pave the way for applications of the V8 engine in mobile homes, school buses, urban buses and shuttles, and fire and emergency vehicles where at present the ISL9 and the ISL6.7 engines are being used.

With more than 300bhp (225kW) and approximately 550lbft (750Nm) of torque, the 5-litre V8 diesel will provide approximately 25% more pulling power than the current petrol-engined light duty pick-ups in the US market.

Such power and torque figures match the corresponding low-end numbers of the Cummins ISL9 and ISL6.7 engines. The ISL9 can reach 1,250lbft torque while the ISL6.7 nudges 750lbft. Engine power outputs are 260-380bhp and 200-320bhp respectively.   

Although, focused initially on the North American market, Cummins engineers and sales staff will later no doubt be anxious to widen their horizons, paving the way for applications outside the region.

Cummins may then extend the CGI design technology to other engines in the company’s portfolio as emissions and market considerations demand.

Certainly, this first application of the V8 in the Nissan Titan will provide Cummins with valuable first-hand experience not only of day-to-day machining and manufacture of CGI diesel engines but also feed-back from on-highway users and servicing and repair shops.

Cummins said with the V8 programme it is planning to add to its 300 person workforce over the next several years and at maturity expects to employ approximately 800 workers. Exact details on hiring, if they have been established, are not yet being made available,  although the company is asking prospective hirees to come forward if they are interested in working for the company on this project.

The CEP dates back to the 1920s. It was built originally around a two-story Civil War era house purchased by Cummins co-founders Clessie Cummins and W.G. Irwin. See also

Meanwhile, on 15 August Cummins celebrated the production of the 1.5 millionth engine at its Jamestown Engine Plant (JEP) in Jamestown, New York.

The Jamestown plant, established in 1974, is one of the top five heavy-duty diesel engine producers worldwide with production in recent years typically exceeding 100,000 engines annually.

JEP also remains one of the company's largest manufacturing facilities, as it accounts for 12 per cent of Cummins total engine production in 2012.   

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