The questions for Craig Osell are as varied as the GMC truck models on display at the farm shows where he mans the booth for the industrial strength truck division of General Motors.

Osell is a retired GM executive who spends part of his retirement at six or several trade shows per year answering questions and getting customer feedback on GMC products.

“People want to know about axle ratios and engines for pulling loads,” Osell said between customer visits at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. earlier this year. “They ask questions about specific uses because pickups are the mainstay of the farming and construction business. Most everyone has a pickup. A lot of women drive pickups and SUVs.”

New pickup exhibits are among the most popular stops at farm shows.

“Of course fuel mileage is becoming a bigger and bigger issue,” said Osell who lives in Castle Rock, Colo. He is a former Chevrolet district manager who once covered 11 Western states. He started with GM in 1964.

He also gets questions about using biodiesel and ethanol in new and existing trucks.

“Probably the most often asked question is when will GM put Duramax diesel engines in half-ton and three-quarter ton pickups,” said Osell. He does not have an answer, but he knows GM is aware of what the farmer/rancher customers want. At the close of the show season, Osell provides GM information about what customers are asking.

“The fact there is no sales tax on farm-delivered diesel is big right now and farmers want diesel engines in all their trucks, large and small,” he said.

Four-wheel drive is one of the most popular features with California pickup buyers. “I'd say 80 percent of the trucks sold in California are four-wheel drive.”

The full-size Sierra pickup truck underwent major redesign for 2008 and that drew people to the GMC booth at World Ag Expo.

The 2008 GMC Sierra 1500 offers a variety of body styles, powerful engine choices, and flexible seating configurations. In the ultra-competitive full-size pickup category, the Sierra line and its sister model, the Chevrolet Silverado, compete with the Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan.

The Sierra 1500 comes in regular, extended and Crew Cab body styles and offers short, standard and long cargo box lengths. There are eight power train combinations, five suspension packages, and three trim levels to choose from. A variety of powerful gasoline Vortec engines are available. Starting with a marginally powerful 4.3 liter V6, the engine offerings ramp up to a 4.8 liter V8 or a 5.3 liter V8 with FlexFuel capability, which is able to run on a combination of gasoline and ethanol.

With a wide range of towing capacities, the optional Vortec Max Performance Pack includes a super-duty four-speed automatic transmission, auto locking rear differential, ride control suspension, and heavy-duty trailering equipment package, providing a towing capacity of 10,400 pounds. — the most of any half-ton pickup available.

All Sierras are equipped with standard dual front airbags and four-wheel anti-lock brakes, preventing wheel lockup during braking. The brakes also include Dynamic Rear Proportioning, which regulates front and rear brake pressure to optimize performance under varying load conditions.

General Motors earlier this year announced it was revising its 365-horsepower Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8. The change is to comply with stringent new emissions standards set to take effect in 2010. GM will spend $69 million to upgrade the Duramax.

GM says the 2010 Duramax diesel will remain at a displacement of 6.6 liters. Most of the changes to the engine involve the emissions system. GM noted it will use selective catalytic reduction to reduce NOx emissions, so the engine can continue to be sold in all 50 states. Vehicles using the engine will get a diesel particulate filter.

The Duramax diesel is so far available only in the Heavy Duty model. GM developed the engine with Isuzu, with more than 1 million built since production started.