Roger Penske has wasted about as much time in putting together a new deal for his Detroit Diesel Corp. as he would in an Indianapolis 500 pit stop.
The new DDC chairman and race team chief, who also heads Penske Corp. of Red Bank, N.J., has pursued a long-standing goal at Detroit Diesel of broadening its engine line by the recent announcement of a collaboration involving Perkins Engines Inc. of Lawrenceville, Ga.Perkins, a subsidiary of Varity Corp. of Toronto through parent Perkins Engines Ltd. of England, has a wide range of diesel engines of its own from 5 horsepower up to 1,200 horsepower Rolls-Royce diesels through its earlier
purchase of Rolls-Royce Diesel Division of England.
Perkins, known largely for its light- and mid-range industrial diesels as well as its marine engines, will provide a complement to the DDC line of heavy-duty truck diesels and larger engines.
Most appealing for the truck market, according to officials at both Perkins and DDC, are the new Perkins Phaser diesel engines which have been federally certified in 3.9-liter and 5.9-liter versions and are considered to be direct competitors with the same-sized B engines of Cummins Engine Co. of Columbus, Ind., for the light- and medium-duty diesel truck market.
Caterpillar Inc. of Peoria, Ill., is also expected to certify two existing engines in the same class, designated the 3114 and 3116 with displacements of 4.4 and 6.6 liters respectively, touching off heavy competition for that segment of the truck market.
Detroit Diesel, the former Detroit Diesel Allison Division of General Motors Corp. until Mr. Penske took over Jan. 1, tried to fill the same gap before in an aborted joint venture with Deere & Co. of Moline, Ill.
Deere also had two diesels in the same displacement range but reportedly was reluctant to undertake the long and costly process of federally certifying them for on-road use. Deere officials were not available for comment.
As part of the Perkins announcement, DDC said that Deere will resume direct distribution of its own diesel engines which Detroit Diesel has sold exclusively in North America under an agreement signed in 1985.
But the Perkins collaboration seems to leave a hole in the crucial 10- liter engine class which has become important to fleets in the lighter end of the over-the-road market which will be served increasingly by Baby 8 and regional haul tractors.
DDC officials acknowledge a need for a 10-liter engine which, like the Cummins L-10 series, would cover a range from 240 to 300 horsepower. Caterpillar is also expected to begin production of its new all-electronic 10.2-liter model 3176 in October.
While DDC's electronic Series 60 engine, available as an 11.1 liter engine in its smaller version, does reach down as far as 280 horsepower, it is considered too large to compete in the full 10-liter range. The Series 60 also weighs about 750 pounds more than the L-10.
While Perkins does offer some engines in the L-10's horsepower range, they are 12-liter engines, considerably heavier than the L-10. According to Perkins marketing manager Dan Allen, his company has nothing ready to throw into the 10-liter gap.
Dave Merrion, DDC senior vice president of engineering, said that he expects the two companies to explore the possibility of a new engine in the 10-liter range in joint engineering.
DDC has said that the first part of its collaboration with Perkins will consist of rationalization of the companies' North American distributor networks but that further phases may extend to manufacturing, engineering and such areas as cross-licensing and sourcing cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mr. Merrion said that DDC's current plans for market coverage include an electronic version of its venerable 6-71 series, a 7-liter engine which has been updated many times during its 50-year history. The 6-71, currently available from 240 to 300 horsepower, would continue to be sold in non- electronic versions when the new electronic model is certified for the market in June or July, Mr. Merrion said.
DDC will also continue to sell its 92 series engines, currently available in ratings from 300 to 475 horsepower.