Fiat Powertrain Technologies – An emerging force in global engine supply

Fiat Powertrain Technologies – An emerging force in global engine supply

In his monthly review of global news for local truckers, FRANK BEETON writes about the emergence of Fiat Powertrain Technologies as a global force in the “loose engine” business, reviews some predictions for the global truck market, discovers a move to AMT by Tata, and details Hyundai’s first entry into the “EuroVan” sector

The term “loose engines” has been used in North America to describe what otherwise may have been known as “proprietary engines” in other parts of the English-speaking world. In essence, it refers to power units made by a specialist engine supplier, and then sold on to vehicle manufacturers for fitment in their products.

In some cases, the true identity of the engine was openly acknowledged, while in others the vehicle manufacturer applied its own nameplate to the power unit, and avoided any above-the-line reference to its real source.

In the commercial vehicle industry, famous names such as Cummins, Detroit Diesel, and Caterpillar were regarded, for many years, as iconic among transport operators. Truck manufacturers in North America (and even some in Europe) were more than happy to offer engines supplied by one or more of these brands as standard and/or optional equipment in their catalogues. However, following a number of ownership changes, Detroit Diesel was incorporated into the Daimler global family. It was subsequently announced that its engines would not be supplied to vehicle manufacturers outside of that family after 2006.

Then, in 2008, Caterpillar entered a complex cooperative process with Navistar International Corporation, which saw its branded engines also exit the “loose engine” market for on-highway vehicles.

So, of the three iconic brands: Cummins, Detroit Diesel and Caterpillar, only Cummins currently remains as a potential supplier of engines to those commercial vehicle manufacturers using bought-in power units.

There are, of course, other engine manufacturers, such as the Navistar group in North and South America, and Weichai in China, serving varying segments of the commercial vehicle spectrum. However, the disappearance of Detroit Diesel and Caterpillar from the open market has left something of a void, and it now seems that the Fiat family, through its Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) operation, is moving increasingly into the available space.

FPT was established as far back as 2005 to consolidate the engine and transmission activities of Fiat Auto and Iveco, and to market their products independently from the Fiat Group’s whole-vehicle operations.

In 2007, FPT signed a long-term powertrain cooperation agreement with DaimlerChrysler’s Truck Group (as it was then) and, in 2009, FPT began supplying its F1C engines for the new generation Mitsubishi Fuso Canter range.

During 2010, we read that the Fiat empire was reorganising into two distinct groupings; Fiat Group Automobiles and Fiat Industrial SpA. While the former would concentrate on light passenger vehicles (and subsequently become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), the latter, which included FPT, would focus on capital goods and emerge as CNH Industrial.

Since then, it has been notable that the engines fitted to Fiat and Iveco commercial vehicle products have been given a clear “FPT” identity, thus ensuring an increased level of visibility for the powertrain manufacturer.

FPT was also noted for achieving Euro-6 compliance without resorting to the employment of Exhaust Gas Recirculation, by using High Efficiency Selective Catalytic Reduction (HI-eSCR) technology, which was claimed to achieve a nitrogen oxide (NOx) conversion efficiency of more than 95 percent; about ten percent better than previous industry best practice.

The philosophy behind this solution was to concentrate on optimising the engine’s fuel economy, and keeping particulate matter emissions at low levels, while leaving an enhanced catalytic reduction process to deal with the NOx emissions.

Globally, the FPT name also has a presence in China, through the SAIC-Iveco FPT Hongyan joint venture.

Back in 2006, Indian manufacturer Tata extended its Korean-built Novus range down market to include lighter 4,5- to seven-tonne payload 4×2 models. Surprisingly, given Tata’s diesel-building joint venture with Cummins in India, these units were equipped with six-cylinder, 5,9-litre Iveco New Engine Family (NEF) common-rail diesel engines, supplied in terms of a partnership agreement between Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company and Iveco/FPT.

More recently, we have read that FPT Industrial has sealed a new contract with Tata Daewoo for the supply of Euro-6,
6,7-litre NEF and nine-, 11- and 13-litre Cursor engines, extending their coverage up the Novus range, and, presumably, replacing the MAN-derived engines inherited with the product from its Daewoo originator.

FPT Industrial has also signed new contracts with the Zyle Daewoo Bus Corporation (not associated with Tata Daewoo), and China’s Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Company Limited for the supply of Euro-6 Cursor 11 and nine-litre engines, respectively, for installation in those manufacturers’ coach models.

Global truck market projections

From a South African viewpoint, it is a somewhat sobering experience to consider the magnitude of global vehicle markets, given that our own annual domestic market for all vehicle types only runs to some
650 000 units, while the world total is around 85 million!

If we restrict the discussion to the types of commercial vehicles of most interest to FOCUS readers, the numbers are not quite so daunting, but we still emerge as a very small player on the world stage.

Nevertheless, it is useful to keep an eye on the global picture, if only to maintain our perspective. We recently read about a study undertaken by consultancy AT Kearney in association with the German Verband de Automobilindustrie (VDA), which ventured some forecasts of volumes in the global and regional markets for trucks with gross vehicle mass (GVM) ratings above six tonnes, for the year 2020. It indicated measures of expected growth off a 2013 base, and made fascinating reading!

Unfortunately, the six-tonne GVM baseline used in the study did not align well with the South African market recording structure, as it cut through the middle of our very significant medium commercial vehicle (MCV) segment. This is a reflection of the European situation, where the space below six-tonnes GVM is mainly occupied by integral panel vans and their spun-off derivatives.

Many of the chassis/cab-based light trucks produced in Japan, India and China, which are very popular in markets such as South Africa and Australia, were thus excluded from the volumes reflected in the study.

It is also notable that Australasia was not recognised as a region in this study, which is regrettable, given the similarity of that market to our own, and somewhat puzzling, because the combination of sales in Australia and New Zealand would have exceeded the annual volume indicated in the study for North Africa.

The executive summary offered the opinion that the global supply industry was likely to gain and lose some manufacturers through consolidation and attrition. In its opinion, global groupings would need to leverage scale in order to satisfy regional market preferences. This has already been evident in the recent actions of the Daimler and Volvo families, with increasing rationalisation of technical components across geographic regions.

It also noted a two-pronged approach to technology innovation, with the “Triad” markets (North America, Europe and Japan) opting for greater sophistication in order to achieve lower ownership costs, while emerging markets were expected to prefer a slower rate of innovation, with a continuing emphasis on lower up-front acquisition costs.

In our view, this trend has already become evident within our own relatively miniscule market, where the larger and more sophisticated operators have chosen the former route to ensure greater levels of operational economy and safety, while others continue to apply a “hands-on” approach using more basic equipment and management systems.

We have created column graphs to illustrate the study’s statistical outputs, which are presented on the left. The margin of compound annual growth estimated for the global total over the 2013 to 2020 period was 4,8 percent, while the corresponding margins for each of the identified regions is listed below.

Total Global Truck Market 2013 vs 2020

Total Global Truck Market 2013 vs 2020



Global Truck Market by region 2013 vs 2020

Tata Adopts AMT

Early in 2012, Global Focus drew readers’ attention to a new Tata truck range; the Ultra series, that was exhibited at that year’s AutoExpo in Delhi. Our impression was that this product had more potential to move this manufacturer closer to international standards in the medium payload spectrum than had been the case with its earlier product offerings.

As announced, the Ultra line-up was positioned to cover the GVM spectrum from five to 14 t, although the 714 and 1017 launch units, as the designations suggested, were rated at all-up masses of seven and ten tonnes, respectively.

Design features included a walk-through cab design, dash-mounted gearshift, hydraulic cab tilt, adjustable tilt/telescopic steering column, mechanically suspended seats with integral headrests, optional cruise control and air-conditioning, roof hatch, entertainment system, and leather-finish dashboard.

The launch technical specification included three and five-litre DICOR NG diesel engines – these being of a new generation, electronically controlled, direct-injection common-rail design – with outputs of 103 kW (138 hp) and 125 kW (168 hp), respectively, driving the rear wheels through six-speed manual transmissions with aluminium casings.

Tata’s Ultra MCV range will soon include Automated Manual Transmissions.The chassis frame was made up of straight profile Domex 650 steel rails, with bolted cross members, with the axles carried on parabolic leaf springs at the front, with semi-elliptic main springs and parabolic helpers at the rear. The vacuum/hydraulic (smaller models), or air/hydraulic (ten-tonne GVM) braking systems actuated discs on the front axle and drums at the rear.

Subsequently, an Ultra 812 was exhibited at the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS), with the promise of a local market entry in 2014. Interestingly, the specification profile provided for this 8 000 kg GVM model included Tata’s 3,8-litre 497 TCIC Euro-3 engine, developing 93 kW (125 hp), which seemed to indicate that the series also incorporates some flexibility in major component choice according to market.

At the time the of writing, we are not aware that any Ultra models have been sold in South Africa as yet. However, recently, we have read that Tata intends to introduce automated transmission technology, incorporating actuators and control units sourced from Wabco Holdings Inc., of Belgium, on its Ultra 812 and 912 models. The company also intends to extend this feature to other models in its range including buses and the Ace mini truck. The AMT option is to be made available on new build vehicles and as a retrofit option.

Hyundai’s “EuroVan” emerges

The “European integral van” vehicle category has frequently been a subject of discussion in Global Focus. As we have stated previously, this grouping, which also includes some spun-off freight carrier derivatives, makes up an important component of both the European and global commercial vehicle markets, with more than half-a-million units sold each year.

The term “integral”, in this case, refers to the incorporation of the driver’s cab into the main panel van structure, and does not necessarily indicate monocoque construction as some models do, in fact, retain self-supporting chassis frames.

Until now, the category has been dominated by products of European origin, but their migration across the North Atlantic in recent years has resulted in some adaptation to suit American tastes, including market-specific branding and the fitment of larger displacement petrol engines.

Now, in a seemingly opportunistic move, South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Motor Company has signalled its intention to take on the European market with its own integral van product. Designated H350, Hyundai’s van, and its spun-off 15-seater bus version, were revealed to the world at the 2014 Paris and Hannover motor shows.

With GVM ratings of 3,5 t (van) and 4,0 t (bus), and a freight payload capacity of up to 1,4 t, this product line-up, which also includes provision for chassis/cab-based open load body derivatives, will compete with models at the lower end of the EuroVan spectrum.

The panel van line-up offers overall length dimensions of 5,5 or 6,2 m, with internal load volumes of 10,5 and 12,9 m³ respectively. The larger model can accommodate five standardised 1 200 x 800 x 900 mm Euro pallets. Overall height is set at 2,69 m for both van wheelbase options, and access to the load space is obtained through sliding side and twin swinging rear doors.

The H350’s technical specification includes a 2,5-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail turbocharged diesel engine, with optional Euro-5 outputs of 110 or 125 kW (150 or 170 hp), driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.

Hyundai plans to tackle Europe’s finest integral vans with its new H350.Front suspension is by MacPherson struts and transverse leaf spring, while the rear axle is carried on single-leaf parabolic springs. There are gas-filled shock absorbers at both front and rear.

The H350 has a substantial list of standard and optional safety systems, including airbags, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist, Hill-Start Assist, Roll-over Mitigation, and Lane Departure Warning.

Styling is said to follow current Hyundai passenger car themes, and standard features include full monocoque chassis construction, engine stop-start, air-conditioning, keyless entry, electric windows and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Optional equipment includes cruise control, cooled glove compartment and Android-operated audio/video/navigation system.

There is no indication, at this early stage, that Hyundai’s H350 will come to South Africa. Given the popularity of European vans in the local MCV market, the Hyundai marque’s local level of success, and its apparent growing local interest in commercial vehicles, we are sure that the topic will be under consideration.

However, a substantial percentage of integral vans are converted locally for midibus taxi applications, and the apparent lack of dual rear wheels in the present H350 line-up may present as an initial obstacle to local introduction, despite the availability of a dedicated passenger-carrying derivative.

Dual rear wheel fitment appears to be the configuration of choice among taxi operators, presumably in the interests of greater stability at speed, and protection against rollover in the event of tyre failure. It will be interesting to see if a suitably adapted H350 derivative appears in due course.


Global FOCUS is a monthly update of international news relating to the commercial vehicle industry. It is compiled exclusively for FOCUS by Frank Beeton of Econometrix.

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