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]