Fuel prices may may have dipped, but the long-term trajectory for oil prices is firmly upward. Aside from environmental concerns, the price of fuel has a real effect on consumer spending and economic growth.

According to a report by Truck Trend magazine, when fuel was below $1 a gallon, there was little incentive to dramatically improve fuel economy, especially in vehicle segments where utility and capability were the primary considerations, but with prices sitting firmly above $3 and sometimes $4 a gallon, improved fuel economy has become a major purchase consideration and engineering objective in all vehicle segments — including full-size trucks.

For decades, full-size pickups – a key tow vehicle segment for the RV industry – struggled to hit the 20 mpg highway mark even with lower-power entry-level engines. Manufacturers focused on increasing power and torque, while keeping fuel economy relatively static, something that buyers were perfectly happy with. Things have changed considerably in the past three to four years, however, and manufacturers have started looking at fuel economy as well. That shift in priorities has led to a number of developments in the full-size truck market.

General Motors introduced its line of XFE and hybrid fullsize trucks and SUVs models in 2008. Ford followed first with the SFE model and, more recently, with the EcoBoost turbocharged V-6. Chrysler has announced the availability of an eight-speed transmission with the new Pentastar V-6 in the upcoming 2013 Ram 1500, resulting in a forecast EPA estimate of 17 city and 24 highway. Chrysler also appears to be actively testing prototype turbodiesel Ram 1500s, trucks that could break the 25 highway MPG threshold.

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