By on June 29, 2020

Image: GM

Compared to the clattery, soot-spewing 350 diesel that helped sink General Motors’ reputation in the 1980s, the 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six introduced in the automaker’s full-size pickups late last year is a refined affair. It’s also making something of a reputation for itself, drawing buyers to the company’s truck-only brand who might otherwise have looked elsewhere in the industry for a pickup.

GMC now says it’s targeting a surprising take rate for the Flint-built engine.

Speaking to Automotive News, the division says a survey of Durmax-powered Sierra conducted in March revealed interesting statistics.While respondents where no stranger to the full-size pickup segment, more than two-thirds had never owned a diesel truck before. More notably, more than half of respondents were new to the GMC brand.

That’s juicy stuff for GMC, as it indicates the 3.0L oil-burner is generating conquest sales for the division. Ford and Ram both offer a light-duty diesel of the same displacement, albeit in an unsexy V6 configuration. In two-wheel drive guise, the Duramax Sierra returns an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mph combined, a significant increase from gas V8 models. A comparable Ford F-150 with 3.0L Power Stroke returns 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.

Ram’s super legal, current-generation EcoDiesel tops the GM diesel in combined driving, but boasts a 32 mpg highway rating.

Over the course of a week, a Duramax-equipped Chevy Silverado 1500 tickled reviewer Chris Tonn in all the right places, wooing him with 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque that came without a side dish of NVH and coal-rolling clouds. Fuel economy topped his expectations.

GMC plans to leverage the positives that generated the engine’s early accolades to further increase consumer interest.

“We have to get a bit more awareness out there for how good our diesel is,” said Phil Brook, GMC’s vice president of marketing, in an interview with AN.

After learning, via the survey, that 35 percent of Sierra buyers were new to the brand (a smaller percentage than Sierra diesel buyers), Brook said the division realized how how important the 3.0L could be for GMC. The division now thinks it can get the diesel’s take rate to one-in-five. Already, Brook said, the diesel take rate among high-end AT4 and Denali buyers stands at 15 percent.

Those buyers wouldn’t be interested in a diesel if it came with the stereotypical lack of refinement.

“The engineers have really done that for us,” Brook said, adding that Duramax-equipped Sierras spend, on average, half the time on the lot as their gasoline counterparts. “They have produced an engine that is an absolute standout.”

[Image: General Motors]

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13 Comments on “Dig That Diesel? GMC Claims New Oil-burner Gets ’em In the Door...”

  • avatar

    “Compared to the clattery, soot-spewing 350 diesel that helped sink General Motors’ reputation in the 1980s”

    The Olds 350 isn’t infamous because of its NVH. Its big issues were:
    0. It wasn’t especially reliable in the first place.
    1. People didn’t know how to take care of diesels, which made the point above even worse.

    I’m guessing history will be repeating itself with the 3.0L.

    • 0 avatar

      This sounds suspiciously like one of those famous TTAC comments where someone thinks 1979 was just a few years ago. Not 41.

    • 0 avatar

      Was it the Olds diesel that was created from he bones of a gas engine, and not sturdy enough to handle compression ignition?

    • 0 avatar

      It was 41 years ago but the 350 diesel deserved it’s terrible reputation. It was based on the 350 gas engine and was gradually reinforced over time. In the end it was a pretty good motor but early versions self destructed. Wrist pins went from hollow to solid, rods reinforced. Pistons, crank shaft, cooling, everything. Typical GM. Everything new is great until it’s a year old and then you find everything that’s wrong with it. But trust us, the next new thing will be great. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The primary issue with the Oldsmobile 350 diesel was that it really needed to have longer and a larger quantity of head bolts than the 350 gasoline engine, because of the higher compression. However, GM didn’t want to do that, because it meant the diesel couldn’t then run down the same assembly line as the gasoline engine, and so they under-built it, with catastrophic results.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember those head bolts. Torque once and throw away, they could not be reused. You could only mill the heads 0.010”, one time. I remember replacing a starter motor on one. $400 for a rebuilt starter. The gas 350 starter was $25 from an autoparts store. It was a complete disaster. They started with a gasoline engine design and then gradually upgraded every part of the motor to a true diesel but that didn’t help the early adopters. I’m sure the new engine is great, and I’m sure problems with it will be gradually revealed over time.

  • avatar

    I read a recent article that said for medium/heavy trucking fleets, their operating costs ranked in order of magnitude are: 1)fuel 2)tires 3)aftertreatment maintenance. That helps explain why the local UPS truck is running a 6 liter gasser these days.

    • 0 avatar

      In a Ford, where you can get a decent sized tank if you go gasser, and not so if you buy a diesel, I just don’t see the point of the latter. At least unless you’re a farmer with no qualms about running dyed stuff.

      With GM, things are a bit different. Since they insist on using the fuel tank off of a gocart on their trucks, the diesel’s additional fuel economy, hence range, is a nice benefit indeed.

  • avatar

    “The diesel take rate among high-end AT4 and Denali buyers stands at 15 percent. Those buyers wouldn’t be interested in a diesel if it came with the stereotypical lack of refinement.”

    [citation needed]

    I’ve never in my life met someone who had NVH in their top 10 concerns when buying a new truck. Given the amount of aftermarket exhaust systems sold for both gas and diesel trucks, a refined engine might actually be a demerit to many buyers.

    People are buying this because a diesel truck is “cool” and because they are bad at calculating the payoff time for the improved fuel economy.

  • avatar

    I drove an ‘83 Mercedes 300 turbo diesel for 8 years and 132,000 miles. I did nothing to the engine but change oil and filters. It never used a drop of additional oil. Admittedly the performance was VERY slow, but the reliability was spectacular. Tell GM to call me back when they can reach that level of reliability and ease of maintenance.

  • avatar

    I wish GM would have offered the 3.0 diesel in the TrailBoss.

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