Editorial: Are Mazda's Diesel Delays Really About Certification?
The diesel powered version of the Mazda6 will be delayed until April of 2014 in the United States, and if you believe Mazda, the delay is meant “to accommodate final emissions testing and certification.” In a letter released to Automotive News, Robert Davis, Mazda USA’s Senior Vice-President of Operations, said
“I know we had discussed it being in showrooms before the end of the year, and everyone involved in the program is disappointed it will not be, but final certification testing — the results of which are looking encouraging — is taking longer than we had initially expected,”
As a salve to anxious dealers, Mazda will deliver extra allocations of Mazda6 sedans in Q1 2014, which are seeing a healthy bump in sales (though still doing 1/10th the volume of the Accord or Camry). While the official reason for the diesel’s delay stems from certification issues (which are a frequently cited reason for the lack of diesel options Stateside, as the Tier 2 BIN 5 regulations are difficult for diesels to comply with), it appears that Mazda’s 2.2L Skyactiv-D engine has had its share of problems in the nearly two years it’s been on sale.
Australian auto media outlets took Mazda to task for issues relating to diesel fuel entering the oil sump after being used to clean off contaminates in the diesel particulate filter. Mazda’s solution for Australian market models (chiefly the CX-5) was to have owners vigilantly monitor engine oil consumption ( as often as every 600 miles), while offering a modified dipstick and oil changes every 1,200 miles as the only solution.
While we’ll never ever harangue a car manufacturer for doing the right thing and delaying production to work out the bugs, the Mazda6 diesel has been a long await product frequently touted by Mazda as a linchpin of their fuel economy strategy. It’s worth asking if there’s more to the story than the official message, which was conveniently leaked to Automotive News just days before the Mazda3 media drive. A firm “no comment” or sticking to the official version regarding emissions certification will likely ward enough any serious inquiries from journalists – and it may very well be the truth. But in light of the Skyactiv-D engine’s past issues, it’s worth asking if there’s any relation to the North American spec motor, and if Mazda is doing all it can to avoid a serious PR flap from potential diesel owners distraught over the motor’s atypical maintenance schedule.
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From what I understand, the diesel only gets 3-4 mpg better than the Skyactiv gas engine, but commands a 10% bump in MSRP, not to mention 15-20% increase in fuel costs. Could it be the benefits of the diesel engine aren't great enough in the American economy to warrant manufacture and marketing of the option?
Some real life reports from the forums have the iEloop and idle-stop equipped Diesel Mazda6 achieving up to 60 mpg... How will that translate to the EPA test cycle is anyone's guess.