With America's top-selling truck as close to a cult vehicle as a pickup truck can get, the company is announcing the debut of a diesel F-150 that targets 30 miles per gallon on the highway while retaining the most powerful towing and hauling capabilities on the market.

“We know people are sensitive to fuel economy,” said Dave Filipe, vice president, global powertrain engineering.

A high mileage rating is a “Holy Grail for the truck customer,” he said, because die-hard customers are towing heavy loads all the time and want to save money at the pump.

The Ford powertrain team responsible for the 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine in Super Duty trucks since 2011 designed and engineered the all-new 3.0 Power Stroke V6 diesel to the specific needs of North America. It is an F-150-specific derivative of the diesel engine built at a Ford plant in the United Kingdom, and inserted into a military-grade aluminum-alloy body at the F-150 plants stateside.

Designers focused on harsh driving conditions, including a mechanical engine-driven fan and dual radiator shutters for improved high temperature, high-altitude performance.

“We know that competing diesels with electric cooling fans have had to dial back on power under extreme heat and altitude, so we decided on a viscous-controlled mechanical fan that has the capacity to move much more air across the radiator and intercooler in extreme conditions,” said David Ives, Ford diesel engine technical specialist.

The company tested the vehicle at the Davis Dam in Arizona, where the F-150 climbed 13 miles at a 6 percent grade in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and maintained consistent power output.

For people who don't know trucks, data doesn't matter. But buyers appreciate knowing the all-new diesel delivers the best towing and payload while burning less fuel. The truck has a 10-speed transmission, 250 horsepower engine and 440 lb-feet of torque.

Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said customers have been asking for increased fuel efficiency. “We see a conquesting opportunity."

From where, he won't say. Likely the Ram Truck and Nissan Titan. More companies are expected to emerge in the half-ton truck size, analysts say.

Ford, which has built the most popular truck in America for 41 years, recently posted sales figures making it the bestselling brand in America for its eighth straight year. F-Series trucks are credited with driving a significant portion of Ford's profits; F-series sales increased 9%, with 896,764 trucks sold in 2017.

Based on company-reported data, Super Duty trucks — the F-Series trucks bigger than the F-150 — make up about one-third of Ford's F-Series production. Approximately 70% of Super Duty trucks are equipped with a diesel engine, which often includes a special transmission designed to handle higher levels of force that provide more towing and hauling capability with comfort.

So, if Super Duty makes up a third of the F Series mix, with approximately 70% of them equipped with diesel powertrain, one can reasonably assume that Ford sells more than 200,000 diesel pickups annually in the U.S. The market is defined and potentially growing with the draw of fuel efficiency.

Diesel vehicle sales, a large majority of which are trucks, grew from 677,000 to 682,000 in the January-October period between 2016 and 2017, according to IHS Markit.

Ford dealerships begin taking orders for the 2018 F-150 diesel in mid-January for a spring delivery. The price has not been released.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @phoebesaid.