Dud or Stud? Chevy's Diesel Cruze Gambit Offers No Guarantee of Success

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
dud or stud chevy s diesel cruze gambit offers no guarantee of success

General Motors is surprisingly boastful when it speaks of the upcoming Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, especially its newfound role as a warm Linus blanket offered to disenfranchised Volkswagen owners.

We’ve been told there’ll be manual transmissions galore, and lets-just-pretend-it’s-a-wagon hatchback variants, too. Now, GM claims a sporty RS version is in the works, which it believes will have VW owners scrambling to trade in their peace signs for bow ties.

Will buyers be kind to the new (and legal) “Whisper Diesel” or is this just an oily pipe dream?

One month before the Environmental Protection Agency blew open the diesel emissions scandal in September of 2015, the German automaker’s TDI models accounted for nearly 58 percent of the diesel light vehicle market in the U.S. Buyers were sold on the attributes of the high-mileage, torquey, four-cylinder units.

Five years ago, a VW dealer told this writer that he’d still sell every vehicle on his lot if 50 percent of them were diesels. Sadly, he claimed, head office only allowed a 25-percent diesel mix.

Now, GM has high hopes that TDI owners facing a buyback will trade their dirty “clean” diesel for a legitimately clean 1.6-liter diesel. Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president for global propulsion systems, says that a good number of former owners “won’t stop wishing for a diesel.”

“And we’ll go after those customers,” he told Automotive News in August.

An RS variant is the latest promise for the diverse 2018 Cruze Diesel lineup, which bows in late summer or early fall of next year. Speaking to Motor Authority, GM North America president Alan Batey claims the diesel RS will be “fun to drive,” making that point more than once.

“You take this look, and you take those performance parts, and you marry it with a diesel,” he said, adding again, “This will be fun to drive.”

That could be true — if output matches the 136 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque seen in the The Detroit News, Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader.com, claims the diesel push has nothing to do with sales.

“I think it’s purely a fuel economy play, as we move closer to fuel economy standards,” Krebs said. “I suspect the take-rate will be very low after the whole Volkswagen situation.”

Speculation has swirled around the model’s fuel economy, with a potential 50 mile per gallon highway figure mentioned. If the Cruze Diesel’s mileage comes close to that, not only would it be a highly marketable claim, but the automaker’s corporate average fuel economy would see a welcome boost.

As GM crosses its fingers, time will tell if the American diesel renaissance recovers from its near-dead state.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Tjh8402 Tjh8402 on Oct 19, 2016

    Price will be a big deal. I've got my eye on this as well as a Civic turbo hatch to replace my Abarth. If I continue driving this much, I'm going to need something with better mpg and more readily available service locations, and I'd like have some more cargo space as well. The challenge for Chevy will be to make the diesel's likely higher price worthwhile compared to the Civic, and both will have an uphill battle against a nicely depreciated Fiesta, Fit, Focus, or Mazda 3

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Oct 19, 2016

    If GM has figured out how to mimic the (non-frost heaved western and southern) highway manners of the VW's it might work. If they design the suspension for Detroit... wrong buyers.

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  • Alan I would think Ford would beef up the drive line considering the torque increase, horse power isn't a factor here. I looked at a Harrop supercharger for my vehicle. Harrop offered two stages of performance. The first was a paltry 100hp to the wheels (12 000AUD)and the second was 250hp to the wheels ($20 000 (engine didn't rev harder so torque was significantly increased)). The Stage One had no drive line changes, but the Stage Two had drive line modifications. My vehicle weighs roughly the same as a full size pickup and the 400'ish hp I have is sufficient, I had little use for another 100 let alone 250hp. I couldn't see much difference in the actual supercharger setup other than a ratio change for the drive of the supercharger, so that extra $8 000 went into the drive line.
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