By on February 17, 2017

GMC Unveils Terrain and Terrain Denali

Volkswagen’s emissions scandal may have killed that company’s diesel presence in North America, but it didn’t kill demand for diesel engines in general — especially ones that don’t pollute like Chernobyl and end up in the trash heap.

At least, that’s General Motors’ take on it. The automaker hopes to fill the void created by VW’s oil-burning absence and, in doing so, score some points with the EPA. With diesel engines now available in five vehicles you won’t see on a worksite (and five more that you would), GM has high hopes it can erase memories of its 1980s diesel woes.

This year, the automaker will offer its Europe-sourced and EPA-approved 1.6-liter turbodiesel in the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze and 2018 Equinox, as well as the similarly updated 2018 GMC Terrain. Already, a 2.8-liter four-pot diesel can be had in the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins.

The move isn’t just about offering customers more torque than the models’ base gas engine can muster. How would any automaker turn down an opportunity to advertise a non-hybrid sedan that gets 52 miles per gallon on the highway? The engine’s availability also boosts GM’s corporate average fuel economy, putting it in the EPA’s good books.

Speaking to The Detroit News, Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems said the “outlook for diesel in the U.S.A. is actually promising.”

“We definitely see certain segments reaching 10 percent penetration and yes, an upside potential of 10 percent overall,” said, adding that 9 percent of Colorado and Canyon buyers opt for the diesel model.

“If we hit that number on Cruze, we’d be delighted. We’d be happy with a lower number than that. We need to test the market and see where things are going.”

Unlike the short-lived first-generation Cruze diesel, which was offered only in high-end trim with an automatic transmission, GM saw fit to move its successor downmarket and offer a manual. That stick shift’s tall upper ratios allows the Cruze TD to reach its lofty MPG figure. The automatic variant, even though a nine-speed, achieves only 47 mpg on the highway.

GM is crossing its fingers and hoping that its high-tech diesels erase some of the stigma oil-burning mills once attached to the automaker. Its V6 and V8 diesels, offered from 1978 to 1985, offered impressive fuel economy for the day, but proved disastrous in practice. Sluggish performance and breakdowns ultimately killed GM’s diesel passenger car gambit, leaving the field wide open for German rivals.

[Image: General Motors]

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93 Comments on “The Early 1980s are Back! GM Anticipates Big Demand for Diesels...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Seriously? Do I really have to mention why that comment is inappropriate?

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    Did the homophobic comment get deleted? I’ll just say that those who are the most vocal against homosexuality probably have a few tendencies that way themselves.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    GM anticipates big demand for diesels. 28 anticipates there isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      There is a market, mostly financed by VW’s payouts.

      • 0 avatar
        dawooj

        As a former VW TDI owner, I wouldn’t go back to diesel. Gasoline engines are catching up to diesel efficiency through turbocharging and the like. I’d much rather buy a hybrid before going back.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      Ford was culling future plans for USA C and D segment diesels in 2008, when the non-urea injected TDI was miraculously passing new emission regulations. Product planning was citing lack of demand.

      That and they had placed their bets on Ecoboost (or TwinForce is what it was referred to prior to prototype build of the Taurus SHO)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t see a market.

      Take, for example, the Colorado Diesel. It costs $4,000 above a comparably equipped V6 Colorado.

      The Diesel gets 29mpg highway and the V6 gets 24. Diesel (here in the Constitution State) costs $2.49 and Regular costs $2.59. That all adds up to a $0.022 per mile cost advantage for the Diesel.

      At that rate, you have to drive 181,818 miles to break-even on the $4,000 premium for the oil burner.

      No market…unless, of course, Common Core rules.

      • 0 avatar
        TCragg

        The diesel also comes equipped with an integrated exhaust brake and trailer brake controller, along with a 7,000 lb+ towing capacity. The exhaust brake is not available on any truck outside of HD-class pick-ups. For those of us who tow, it’s an attractive combination in a package that still fits in a typical suburban garage.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          That’s a good point often overlooked.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          Is it a realistic 7000 pounds, or a wet dream figure like my old Frontier’s 6500 pound rating? Again, if you just have to have a midsize and you tow, it is a good fit, but the 2.7 in the F150 will pull that as well. I’ve towed with midsizers and the smaller footprint and shorter wheelbase seem to become the limiting factor before the power train. Depends on the load though. If we are talking a 30 foot travel trailer that the wind will push around I want the full size. If we are talking a physically smaller trailer however then the little diesel is a good fit. If I pull 7000 pounds regularly I probably skip both.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Durishin,
        Diesel vs gasoline FE and quoting manufacturer fogures is misleading.

        I have owned a number of diesel and gas vehicles in my life and the real life difference in FE is much greater.

        The Colorado diesel might be 4 grand more expensive (using recommended pricing) but the diesel offers V8 torque with small car FE.

        So, you prefer a little 4 pot 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang over a V8 Mustang? Your analogy or comparison can be used with gas engines as well.

        Buy a Pentastar Ram, it must be better than the small VM diesel Ram.

      • 0 avatar
        here4aSammich

        The only way I’d get one is via a lease. I’m wondering if the residuals would offset some of the additional cost. If it holds it’s value better than the gasoline engined version, it might work better than an outright purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        JK43123

        And that’s if diesel stays cheaper. Around here it is often more expensive

        And don’t you have to put that exhaust fluid stuff in it?

        Nah, I don’t aee the demand.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Do you do all your driving on the highway? What’s the difference in city MPG? In combined MPG? Do you tow? The old “but the regular engine gets good highway MPG too” argument strikes me as pretty bogus for most drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Do you think buyers will prefer:

      1) diesel CUV’s
      2) hybrid CUV’s

      Those are the two options allowed for by CAFE 2025. Unless the Trump admin completely eliminates CAFE 2025 (leaving CAFE 2016 in place), we can say with relative certitude that demand for diesels will be much higher than it is today.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Diesel outside of trucks is done. The Europeans are slowly starting to sour on it, because it appears that diesel emissions controls are a big charade, and without a big Euro market there is no justification for development. Horrible strategy for GM.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @dal20402
      No they are not, that is why Barra wants to being a European diesel back to the US. Diesel is being dropped for very small capacities, as a small petrol/ gas engine is just as effective.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        More cities are following in Paris’s footsteps and considering banning diesels for air quality reasons. If that happens in even a couple of additional cities, diesel in passenger cars is done.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I can’t see small diesels fairing too well when attached to fine particulate systems.
          Isn’t that part of the problem in Europe? Old diesels sooting up the environment.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Lou_BC
            No , old engines generally. Still the EU vehicle park is a lot younger than the NA equivalents.
            What makes it difficult in Europe is 500 million people living a fairly tiny area. Given NA space it would be lot easier for regulators

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @dal20402
          Again they are not. Paris, and especially London are banning all ICE vehicles on certain days. Again both cities have a long way to go to get too LA levels of overall pollution. Unfortunately the almost total lack of electrified public transport in LA and the vast traffic jams as a result, add to the killer smog.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            An outright ban of diesels may sound extreme, but…

            OK, I’ve got nothing. It’s a desperate, drastic assault on diesels in Europe. Expect no less.

            I’d be p!ssed though! Especially if I or a loved one was coughing up a lung!

            It’s an F’ing disaster, but who can you sue?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            When are these days they are banning them? I just spent a month between the 2 cities and observed no car free days.

            There were fewer cars on the roads in Paris than I remembered though, diesel or gas (and electric now)

            Paris remains the only city I’ve been to I could see myself not owning a car in. The Metro is fantastic. The Tube in London will get you there, but you never seem to have to wait in Paris. Any city seeking to limit cars needs to have mass transit to that standard IMHO.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          dal,
          How you delivered your comment is quite misleading.

          Paris and the diesel emission problem is in relation to older diesels. France is also looking at gasoline particulates as well. The gas particulates is now higher than diesel particulates. GDI.

          Omission or understatements doesn’t bode well.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @BAFO – The vast majority of diesels running around Europe are pre-emissions and a lot of the newer diesels are TDI VWs. Paris of course with the highest concentration of diesels.

            GDI particulates are another issue, unrelated, and unimportant, depending on who you ask.

            But let’s deal with what ‘is’

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Yep – London is concerned with the long-lasting health effects of its air-quality (which has gotten WORSE with the misguided pursuit of pushing diesel powerplants).

          The quality of air in London may actually be worse for one’s health than that of Beijing.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      dal20402, economics, not pollution regulations, is what’s killing Diesel demand. Fuel efficient passenger cars don’t save enough money in fuel cost to pay for the higher up front costs of the diesel engine. Europe was a special case because gasoline was taxed at a higher rate than diesel fuel. It’s a diminishing returns problem where it’s harder to justify further savings at the pump vs. up front cost as the baseline fuel cost goes lower.
      https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/06/04/diesel-vs-gas-which-is-the-better-fuel-and-vehicle.aspx
      Diesel engines start to make sense for trucks due to higher fuel use, especially trucks regularly driven long distances. That and big, loud diesel truck engines just sound cool.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        George,
        I did read a couple years ago the French government was trying to lift diesel tax and were not succeeding.

        When I was in France in October I did notice the difference between diesel and gas closing.

  • avatar
    James2

    Someone needs to stop the GMC designers from cribbing from Lexus and Cadillac simultaneously! (One at a time is… better?)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Here’s hoping the 6-speed manual shifts sweetly enough that anyone actually wants it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Diesel ain’t gonna help that ugly-a** GMC whatever-it-is in the photo.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I thought the EPA was shut down already? j/k However I am pretty sure the oil burning fans from VW are not looking towards GM for their next ride. Shame since VW was well on its way to making diesel seems cool for normal people with normal cars. Now consumers are scared away again because the cloud over diesels (pun intended). Thus I’d guess its back to being a truck only thing. So I am happy that mid-size twins have an oil burning option.

  • avatar

    For what it is worth, I drove across Spain last week (great trip, Andorra was bonus country).

    From Porsche Cayenne, to X5, to Q7, to absolute junk beaters, everything is Diesel. I saw maybe two cars with gas power. Diesel was 10 cents (euro) cheaper, about $5 per gallon. I even saw a Scirocco Diesel !

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Speedlaw,
      They are everywhere in Europe. Hybrids, strangely pollute more are less efficient

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Neither of those claims is true, except maybe the efficiency claim in one situation: wide-open highway driving. That is, the kind of driving that no one in Europe and not many people in America ever do.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @dal20402
          Do a lot of it in Australia due to vast distances, except they are pickups instead of cars.
          European researchers did a test of hybrids v diesels and found that diesels actually pollute less. When you are talking about very small diesels v petrol engines, very little in it.
          https://www.wired.com/2007/11/diesels-provide/

          • 0 avatar
            markogts

            “a cost-benefit analysis by the RAND Corp. finds so-called advanced diesel engines provide a slight edge over gas-electric hybrids ”

            You don’t mind if I don’t care about an “analysis” made in 2007 by a big-oil think tank, do you?

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @markogts
            No different from others, who think LA and parts of Salt Lake City, have magically, ” cleaned themselves up”. Residents maybe living under that delusion, but the hospitals and morgues know otherwise.
            http://jalopnik.com/electric-and-hybrid-cars-might-produce-as-many-toxins-a-1775747577
            Throw this little collection into the mix, you should run around with a Oxygen tank.
            “Carbon Monoxide
            Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
            Nitrous oxide (N2O)
            Sulphur dioxide
            Suspended particles, PM-10 particles less than 10 microns in size.
            Benzene
            Formaldehyde
            Polycyclic hydrocarbons”

  • avatar
    Rday

    the complicated emissions systems on diesels really hurts them. the hybrids make alot more sense in cars. And nobody knows how much trouble these diesel emissions will cost in the future. I have heard that they are expensive with the soot problems, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      When your emissions control systems make a hybrid vehicle look simple, you know you have a problem.

      • 0 avatar

        Spain wasn’t a germanic high speed market. The roads are narrow, even the interstate types. Lots of traffic, no where to open it up…70 mph limits, 80 max on these roads. A US interstate is much bigger than anything I saw.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @speedlaw
          Been anywhere besides Spain? There are many freeways and toll roads , that have higher speeds than in the US. Autobahns in Germany is one example. Even in Merry Old Britain they have a 82 mph limit.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Just made several drives Between Stuttgart, Brussels, and Paris. Just like anywhere traffic is your limiting factor. Yes there are stretches to open it up in Germany, but not so many as there used to be. The highways in Belgium are closer to those in Detroit than Germany with respect to condition and France does get you with the tolls and a new one for me…there was a border checkpoint coming out of Belgium. They also limit speed to 130kph.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Also with respect to Paris, years ago there were gas stations in the city. I didn’t see one this time. Surely they are somewhere but honestly it is probably easier to gas up your electric there than a diesel or petrol car. That may account for fewer cars on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      My TDI experience taught me that everything south of the Turbo was a joke…a poorly engineered joke. The rest of the car and the engine before the Diesel Particulate Filter was great. The kill the planet but yea me ! option would be to ditch the whole system and get the engine flash tuned. Gain power and mileage, add pollution and particulates. You’d need to live in a no inspection state…..

  • avatar
    markogts

    Everybody in Europe foresees the slow death of diesel. Paris and London are forbidding them. However, for long driving on highway it may still make sense. Just stop outside the town center.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @markogts
      No they are not.Diesels have been selling in rather large numbers in Europe. Take into consideration Europe is pretty small compared to NA and it is a miracle how they sell 15 Million vehicles in total in the EU

      • 0 avatar
        markogts

        “They are not” what? Diesel ban in Paris:

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/02/four-of-worlds-biggest-cities-to-ban-diesel-cars-from-their-centres

        London:

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/18/ban-diesel-cars-in-london-thinktank-urges

        To buy a diesel, especially a city car, today, means taking a big financial risk.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @markogts
          Those two cities are banning all ICE vehicles not just diesels on certain days. London and Paris do not have the horrendous visible as well as the dangerous invisible pollution of LA, that causes so much health worries in that city. Cancer, Asthma, Bronchial problems in LA , would be horrendous

          To buy any car in the conjested cities of Europe is a major worry

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/12/science/who-says-europe-trails-us-in-reducing-air-pollution.html?_r=0&referer=https://duckduckgo.com/

            World Health Organization sees it differently

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        CAFE looks extremely reasonable compared to Europe’s ridiculous policies encouraging/subsidizing diesel cars for decades. The cancer/health fallout directly linked to toxic diesel exhaust is staggering.

        Yeah I’d say they’re having a change of heart.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “We definitely see certain segments reaching 10 percent penetration”

    Jack Baruth now doing press releases for GM?

  • avatar
    rpol35

    So does this mean that GM is going to dust off the Olds 350 diesel and give ‘er a go again?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I have to wonder what marketing geniuses believe GM can sell 10% diesel in any of its products (that isn’t a truck), and how these people keep their jobs when that lofty prediction doesn’t come true.

    Hybrid is the better value, with slightly less driveability.

    If you want diesel torque without its hassle, go electric. You just get different hassles.

  • avatar
    Aphidman

    I have had the first-generation Cruze diesel for about 2.5 years now and have been reasonably happy with it. It is very nicely equipped (for a Chevy), has excellent highway range (about 1000 km if there is no headwind), and I’m eccentric enough to want a car that’s a bit different, and a diesel Cruze certainly is that.

    As some other commenters have pointed out, the complexity of the emission control system is probably the weak point in the diesel approach, and when the problems start with my vehicle, that will probably be the place.

    On the other hand, the emission system for the 1st gen. diesel Cruze is based on the one used in the GM trucks; is the truck system problematic?

  • avatar
    carguy67

    Diesel fuel is getting harder to find here in the SF Bay Area. I’d guess only every third station has a green nozzle or two.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s just one of the things prospective diesel buyers never think about. Your quality of life goes down a notch, maybe 2.

      They put the diesel pumps closest to the station entrance, for easy in-N-out of RVs, big trucks, toy haulers, etc. That leaves those combination gas/diesel pumps getting hogged by everyone, while the rest of the station is deserted.

      Then most places that carry diesel, are the hole-N-the-wall, angry immigrant stations with no restrooms (or filthy if they do), nor real mini-mart. So you end up making another stop to get the coffee, milk, snacks and adult beverages on your way home, when you’re tired and just dying to kick off your shoes and hit the couch.

      I’m sure it’s exciting and new, the first weeks or days of *diesel* ownership, but you’ll quickly come to realize how good you had it with boring old, gas engines you never had to think about.

  • avatar
    blaster668

    With some simple math using sales data from goodcarbadcar and the hybridcars.com sales dashboard that includes date for diesel sales, I calculate that the diesel take rate on Jaguar F-Pace CUVs has been exceptionally good. The take rate for November was 24%, December was 26%, and January was 22%. I think if GM offers the right product and prices it right, they will easily hit the 10% goal.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Seems like the problem with the diesels in Europe is that, while they don’t smoke visibly (and haven’t for some time), they produce lots of NOx which, when baked by the sun, turns into smog. NOx is a the product of high combustion temperatures (the nitrogen in the air burns, along with the fuel), which are a feature of the diesel engine (and the source of its efficiency). Maintaining a critical combustion temperature in the real world is, apparently, difficult, with varying amounts of exhaust gas recirculation, injection timing, etc. I’m thinking that, thanks to the VW mess, there’s going to be a lot more “real world” testing automotive and light truck diesels.
    So, I see a risk in that strategy and, as others have pointed out, given the price premium in most parts of the U.S. of diesel over regular gasoline, on a cents/mile basis the payback period for a diesel is pretty long. Thanks to Toyota. the longevity and reliability of hybrid technology have been well established. Not to mention, diesels do best in long highway drives; whereas hybrids do best in stop and go commuting, which is where most Americans find themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      “stop and go commuting, which is where most Americans find themselves.”

      That’s funny huh, from across the pond I’d guess you always drive on these empty, straight highways, with the grass strip in the middle :-) Now imagine Europe, which is half as big and has cities designed before cars ever existed…

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      Actually we have issues mostly with PM, be it 10 or 2,5. In winter, when it comes to long period of high pressure, temperature inversion and zero wind, pollutants accumulate, along with the emissions of industry and heating plants.

      NOx and ozone may become an issue in summer, but rarely since there is no fossil burning for heating and the traffic gets fluid with plenty of people on scooters – don’t ask about noise…

  • avatar
    Ned Funnell

    Dang. That thing is unsexy. It has the rear window of an i3 and the headlights of the fourth-gen Prius. No thank you!

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Yeah they’re trying way too hard to be different, and get noticed. How about making a good truck? Then it doesn’t matter what it looks like.

      It’s better to blend into traffic if you ask me. Camaros are for “standing out”. This thing’s the son of Pontiac Aztek. Pacman headlights.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder if the EPA will introduce a different testing method for diesels.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Lazy writing. “GM” “Diesel” … let’s talk about the 1980s diesel fiasco.

    Interesting writing would have been to research the roots of GM’s modern European sourced diesels, or perhaps to talk about what the divestiture of Opel might mean to the long term place of diesel technology in the GM portfolio. Or, look at the controversy in Europe about what place diesel has in the ongoing development of automobiles there. But no, just go for the quick hit of saying what everyone already knows about the 1980s diesel fiasco.

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      Well, Opel diesel in the early 2000′ were awful too. The 1.7 made by Isuzu had such a turbolag that the turbo would start spinning just when you had to shift. The 2.0 delivered 101HP at times when competitors were pulling 130/140 from the same displacement. But the reason that engine will be remembered is because they sold it with the oil-scraping rings mounted reversed, by mistake. Opel always refused to repair the defective engines and instead issued service bullettins claiming that one liter oil per 1,000 km (a gallon per 2500 miles) was a perfectly reasonable oil consumption.

      Once everyone in GM admitted they had no clue with diesel engines, they asked FIAT for help. FIAT redesigned the CH for the 1.7, while for the 2.0 there was no hope, it was replaced by the 1.9 JTD. This is how Opel got common rail engines.


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