About year ago, lead engineer Jim Katzenmeyer finally got a chance to drive one of the first prototype Nissan Titan trucks equipped with the new light duty diesel engine he and his team had been working on since 2007.
His first reaction: “I couldn’t believe how quiet it was,” Katzenmeyer said.
That such a moment would come not with a bang, but a satisfying hum is somehow appropriate for the soft-spoken Katzenmeyer. His calm demeanor and steady hand are being credited for the successful development of Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel despite years of delay caused by a global economic downturn.
The new engine will be featured in Nissan’s next generation Titan pickup truck. Nissan has not released a launch date, but trucks powered by the engine are currently undergoing extensive testing on public highways.
The automaker believes the Cummins diesel will provide light truck customers with a combination of towing capacity and fuel mileage that will give the Titan a key advantage in the highly competitive U.S. pickup truck market. Cummins is also producing a version of the engine for commercial vehicles, which should be available in the last quarter of 2014.
Cummins announced it was building a light duty diesel in Columbus, Ind., in 2006, but global economic conditions two years later forced the original buyer to reconsider. Cummins searched for a new buyer for about two years before Nissan chose the engine for the Titan.
Katzenmeyer, a 27-year employee with Cummins, credits his team’s focus with seeing the project through despite uncertainty that caused more than a little anxiety. His team kept working on the engine while the Company searched for a new partner, looking for ways to make it more attractive to prospective customers.
“I’m really pleased with how our team reacted,” Katzenmeyer said. “We were able to make some improvements including fuel economy and power. I really believe we came out with a better product in the end.”
Katzenmeyer joined the light duty diesel project after finishing up work as the engineering leader on a heavy-duty engine launched in 2007. He said he “jumped at the chance” to be a key contributor to something he believed could change the way Cummins does business. He was also intrigued because the project involved a lot of cutting edge technology.
In thinking about how to keep his team focused during those years without a partner, he said he realized he couldn’t ask team members to make a commitment he wasn’t willing to make himself. So he recommitted himself to the project as did many members of his team and he believes that was critical.
Katzenmeyer developed his work ethic growing up on a farm in Minnesota where he was driving a tractor at an early age, helping his seven siblings and parents with a multitude of chores that needed to be done.
Due to the long distance to the nearest town, it was often necessary to perform “seat-of-the-pants engineering” on farm machinery, repurposing available materials to keep equipment running. This sparked in Katzenmeyer an early interest in how things worked, which later developed into an interest in engineering.
Katzenmeyer graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural engineering, but there weren’t a lot of job opportunities in that particular field then. College friends told him about Cummins and he soon joined the Company.
Cummins Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Linebarger praised Katzenmeyer’s leadership at a news conference Aug. 20 in Columbus. He said project leaders consistently urged him not to give up on the engine.
Katzenmeyer said while he was honored to be recognized by Linebarger, he hopes it doesn’t detract from the outstanding work by his team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said.
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