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Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 9.40.08 AMEditor’s Note: The following article appearing in the February issue of RV Executive Today by Jeff Kurowski examines automakers’ heightened focus on tow vehicles. Kurowski is director of industry relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).

Auto manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, continue to make incremental changes to their pickup offerings that expand the fleet of RV tow vehicles.

One of the more significant developments will occur this fall when Ford Motor Co. begins shipping to dealers its 2018 F- 150 pickups with a diesel option. The only other full-size pickup with a diesel option is Fiat Chrysler’s RAM 1500.

The optional Ford F-150 diesel engine will be a Power Stroke 3.0-liter V6. Its towing capacity ratings were not available as of mid-January. The maximum towing capacity for a 2017 diesel engine RAM 1500 is 10,700 pounds.

The towing capacity of a specific vehicle depends on several factors but, in general, diesel engines have greater capacity and get better mileage than gasoline engines, although they cost more.

Ford’s 2018 F-150 lineup also will include four new or updated gasoline engines which will all have the ability to shut off when the truck stops to save fuel and re-start when the driver pushes the gas pedal. The gas engines include an entry-level 3.3-liter V6; a 2.7-liter and a 3.5-liter twin turbocharged V6, and a 5.0-liter V8 featuring direct and port fuel injection for more power and fuel efficiency.

The turbocharged and V8-powered trucks will use a 10-speed automatic transmission, while the 3.3-liter V6 will come with a six-speed. The maximum towing capacity for 2017 model year F-150s is 12,200 pounds, and Ford intends to exceed that in 2018.

For towing heavier trailers, Ford builds the Super Duty F-250 through F-450. The maximum towing capacity for a 2017 F-250 with the towing package is 18,000 pounds; it’s 27,500 pounds for an F-450. Ford’s 2018 F-150s will be built in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo.

Ford sold 820,000 F-Series pickups in 2016 – about 70% of which were F-150s – so it’s understandable the Michigan-based company is investing resources to keep improvements coming along at a quick pace. One of its longer term plans is to begin building a gas/electric hybrid F-150 in 2020. According to Ford CEO Mark Fields, the hybrid F-150 will “offer excellent towing and payload capacity” and could even be used as a campsite generator.

Japanese automakers Toyota and Nissan also are investing in U.S. factories in an effort to become more competitive in the pickup market, thus giving RVers more tow vehicle choices.

Nissan entered the full-size pickup market in 2016 with the Titan XD, and it added the Titan half-ton for 2017. It has a maximum towing capacity of 9,390 pounds and is assembled in Mississippi using engines built in Tennessee.

To make towing safer and easier, the Titan half-ton includes an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control (TSC), tow/haul mode with downhill speed control and a trailer light check system that allows a one-person hook-up operation – including checking turn signals, brake lights, and running/clearance lights.

President Donald Trump got Toyota’s attention when, prior to his inauguration, he threatened to slap an import tariff on cars that Toyota builds in Mexico and sells in the United States. At the annual Detroit Auto Show in January, the Japanese automaker plastered its 2017 Tundra with decals declaring that it is built in San Antonio, Texas. Otherwise, the 2017 Tundra, which has a towing capacity of up to 10,500 pounds, basically is a carry-over from 2016.