Spied: Ram testing diesel-powered 1500 pickup!

Ram has been testing a diesel-powered half-ton pickup in Detroit - and it was just spotted at Cummins' shop.

While Ford and General Motors are said to have shelved their plans for diesel-powered half-ton pickup trucks, the folks at Fiat-owned Chrysler have apparently taken some direction from their European ownership. A diesel-engined Ram 1500 (don't call it a Dodge Ram) test mule has been spotted around Detroit, most recently at a Cummins workshop.

The engine under this short cab, long-bed Ram's hood probably isn't from Cummins, but the Indiana-based diesel builder is likely heavily involved with some North American-market tuning. Instead, the Ram will almost certainly get a version of the Italian-built VM Motori 3.0-liter that powers certain European-market Chrysler products including the Lancia Thema (itself a rebadged Chrysler 300). With 240 horsepower and over 400 lb-ft. of torque on tap, the turbodiesel six is also expected to power the 2013 or 2014-model year U.S.-market Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has long stated that a half-ton Ram diesel is on his agenda, but the automaker has closely watched demand to see if the potential fuel economy gains would result in a profitable vehicle. For 2013, the Ram 1500 gains a new gas V6 as well as an eight-speed automatic transmission, a combination that could net as high as 24 mpg on the highway. However, all information Chrysler has released so far indicates that the only diesel Rams set to be available next year will be the Cummins-powered heavy duty models.

The Ram our spies nabbed in suburban Detroit is distinguishable primarily by its soot-stained rear fender. While a production diesel won't likely spit out that much smoke, the automaker's engineers are probably tweaking emissions equipment.