Chrysler is making history.  Their 2013 Ram 1500 has been spied with a diesel engine. Chrysler executives have hinted at such a product for years. In fact, Chrysler once had a contract in place with Cummins – the same diesel engine manufacturer that builds the 6.7-liter turbo-diesel I-6 found in Ram HD models – to develop a diesel V-8 for light-duty applications. That contract was voided during Chrysler’s bankruptcy, though Cummins has continued to develop small diesel engines, including some in partnership with the Department of Energy.

Chrysler didn’t exactly pick up the contract again after its restructuring, but it didn’t abandon the idea of a light-duty diesel pickup, either. According to Allpar, the truck here boasts a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel DOHC V-6 sourced from Fiat subsidiary VM Motori SpA.

If that engine sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same diesel engine offered in the European-spec Jeep Grand Cherokee, and will be offered in North American Grand Cherokees for the 2013 model year.

The engine is more than up to the task of hauling the Ram around town. In Grand Cherokee guise, the engine produces 237 hp at 4000 rpm, and a stout 405 lb-ft of torque at 1800 rpm. According to VM’s spec chart for the A630 engine, that’s about as much torque as the DOHC V-6 can crank out, but its maximum power can be increased by roughly 10 hp. Compared to the 2013 Ram 1500’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the VM V-6 is shy about 40 hp, but offers nearly double the torque – something pickup owners could appreciate when hauling cargo or towing heavy trailers.

So, does this sighting mean a diesel Ram1500 will roll into dealer showrooms this year? Perhaps not. Allpar claims these trucks are very early prototypes, built mostly to evaluate packaging, tuning, and thermal issues before development progresses any further. These trucks were also allegedly hand-built in an engineering facility, and not actually produced on the Ram’s production assembly line. Still, we can’t help but think this makes for an interesting proposition: pickup buyers are already more open to the idea of a diesel powerplant, and if Jeep’s already working to make the engine 50-state compliant for the Grand Cherokee, the cost of federalizing the engine has already been amortized. Both factors seem like positive steps towards building a solid business case for a diesel option.

Chrysler will flourish with this move.  Sad that the American buyers did not understand the opportunity when Daimler was at the wheel – they pushed for the U.S. Migration to diesel that had already dominated European auto sales for years.  Daimler installed diesel engines into a long list of Chrysler products from 2005-2008, but they simply did not sell – the vast majority of the American people did not understand the advantages of diesel (though there were a few who did).  One of the results of that European Migration is stronger economies.  Seriously, there is a direct relationship between nations that run a 50% or better diesel light fleet and their economic strengths.  Daimler took the risk with Chrysler to enable this Migration and had they been successful, the U.S. economy would have been less impacted by the Recession.

Update: 2013-09-12

Officially dubbed EcoDiesel, the RAM’s new engine will be a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.  The automaker says it will be mated to the same 8-speed automatic that powers today’s RAM 1500 pickup.  Ram has released the specs for tow at 9,200lbs.

The RAM will share its new diesel engine with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is also adding diesel power for the new model year. In the Grand Cherokee, the V6 will make 240 horsepower and a muscular 420 lb-ft of torque. Chrysler says diesel-equipped Grand Cherokee models will get up to 30 mpg on the highway.

From inside information, this historic 1500 Ram diesel will be available by October 1st 2013.

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