By on April 27, 2017

2017 GMC Canyon - Image: © Timothy Cain

We drove in and around the city in a 2017 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel for 120 miles, then took a 180-mile journey to Prince Edward Island, and have since driven around that island 120 miles.

The result: 30.2 miles per gallon on the U.S. scale, a miserly 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres. It doesn’t hurt that, around these parts at the moment, diesel costs roughly $0.25 USD less per gallon versus regular.

The 2.8-liter four-cylinder under the hood of this GMC Canyon, with a paltry 181 horsepower but a stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm, is one of a handful of diesels General Motors has installed in U.S. market vehicles. The 6.6-liter Duramax V8 in heavy-duty pickup trucks is the one you hear rumble most often. But GM is also inserting the Cruze’s 240-lb-ft 1.6-liter turbodiesel into the third-gen Chevrolet Equinox and second-gen GMC Terrain.

With diesel engine offerings in two pickup truck lines, a compact car, and a pair of small SUVs, can General Motors — not Mazda, not Mercedes-Benz, not Skoda — be the North American diesel-lover’s answer now that Volkswagen committed its unclean diesel transgressions?

GMC Canyon 2.8 Duramax - Image: GM

No, at least not in the sense that GM, like Volkswagen, will garner one-fifth of its U.S. sales volume — 50,000 vehicles per month — from its diesel-engined lineup.

No, at least not in the sense that GM will ignite a recognizably mainstream TDI-like brand, or rather two, with the established Duramax brand and subtle TD badging on non-Duramax diesels.

No, at least not in the sense that diesel engines will be pervasive across the lineup. Volkswagen didn’t offer North Americans a diesel option in the CC, Eos, and Tiguan, but diesel availability spread across a wide variety of trims in the majority of Volkswagen vehicles.

But can General Motors be the natural replacement location for buyers who’ve sold back their TDI-engined Volkswagens to Volkswagen?

Can General Motors, five years from now, be perceived as the place for America’s diesel lovers?

Can General Motors, the GM of ancient Oldsmobile V8 diesel infamy, now become the natural landing place for addicts of bladder-bursting cruising range?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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77 Comments on “QOTD: Can GM Be North America’s Post-Volkswagen Diesel Answer?...”


  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    In a word NO. Diesel has a connotation in the US that does not exist anywhere else. It is the land of the flat earth believers . In Australia ” Grey Nomads” have that ” Oldsmobile Diesel” moment with 5th Wheeler Trailers. Very little can get them out of their Caravans

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      RobertRyan, US mainstream consumer interest in Diesel passenger cars died a decade ago the moment diesel fuel became more expensive than premium gasoline. Low sulfur diesel costs more. Most people don’t drive enough for dollars saved from the lower fuel consumption of the more expensive diesel fuel to offset the added cost of the diesel engine. A diesel engine has to be big and loud before a subset of US consumers will pay thousands extra for it.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @George B
        Which confirms my answer. Very different reactions outside the US

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Outside the US, diesel passenger car sales are declining rapidly, especially in places that once embraced them. But what else would you expect?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            In Europe, governments encouraged low cost diesel, but tightening emissions standards and the inability to clean up the fuel itself at reasonable cost is turning governments against diesel. A lot of customers must be seeing the handwriting on the wall.

            In the US, there’s never been government encouragement, and in recent years the diesel fuel tax imposed by states as well as the feds has risen higher than gasoline. Until recently, the cost at the pump was higher.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            When European cities are banning diesels specifically from their streets, you know it’s gone the complete other way from “government encouragement” of diesels.

            This has more to do with the catastrophic health fallout, linked directly to diesel exhaust, than stink and smog from excessive diesels.

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            Diesel sales in cars are hanmpered by the higher taxes placed on the fuel compared to gasoline, whereas the EU places a higher tax on gasoline (petrol) than diesel. Thus most of the worlds diesel cars are for the Euro market. In the US though, diesel is taxed higher than gasoline, ostensibly becasue primarily truckers use diesel and they put more wear on the roads. This policy makes it difficult for diesel car buyers to pay stiff premiums for compression ignition engines to do more than their share of road and infrastructure maintenaince. We could start by not heavily taxing diesel fuel with the assumption that it will power 20-wheelers, and instead raise taxes using tolls of wheight scales and per-axle rates.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Lorenzo
            Not really .They are pushing EV’s not hybrids for European cities, where ICE vehicles have problems.on certain days.
            Diesels are selling well generally. Unlike the US they make up all of the commercial vehicles and over 50% of the cars
            ” inability to clean up the fuel itself” European diesel is vastly cleaner than what is sold in NA, even the Petrol is a whole lot cleaner.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @la834
            That would be a good start in getting Diesel onto a level playing field in the US. Seeing it is actualy cheaper to produce than Petrol

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @RRyan – “ICE vehicles” aren’t the (health) problem in Europe. ICE vehicles of the “diesel” variety are.

            While it many have been simpler to ban all ICE vehicles in key cities, on certain days, diesels are the issue, plain and simple.

            It could be some EU officials didn’t want to admit they F’d up (ROYALLY!!!) by effectively forcing Europeans into crappy little, diesel autos, whether they liked it or not, but the truth is out now, and diesels are getting specifically banned, not gasoline engine cars, except old pre-emissions autos.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Flat earth believers?”

      Troll request declined.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious what you think “”Oldsmobile Diesel”moment” means?

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “In Australia ” Grey Nomads” have that ” Oldsmobile Diesel” moment with 5th Wheeler Trailers.”

        Makes no sense since late 70’s early 80’s Oldsmobile Diesel’s were notoriously unreliable. They got replaced right after warranty with SBC’s.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Maybe its Mad Libs?

          “In Soviet Russia” “Bengal tigers” have that “Nikasil defect” moment.

          For the uninitiated:

          http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/a6643/top-automotive-engineering-failures-jaguar-nikasil-v8/

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            I guess Jaguar is an easy punching bag for anything reliability related. Maybe they do deserve it since BMW already went through this with their M60 engine.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Lou_BC
          Similar US 5Th Wheel trailers were badly made, ergonomic.disasters.
          Local builders tried to rectify the impression, but were by then battling pretty negative impressions

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @ Big L from Chicago
        Olds Diesels were unreliable clunkers. Imported US 5 th Wheels were shoddy ,dated disasters

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      “Diesel has a connotation in the US that does not exist anywhere else.”

      Show your work. This is too vague.

      Here in the US, diesel is generally (not always) more expensive than gas, and in some areas, like mine, significantly so. I paid $2.75/gallon for premium gas at my last fill up. That particular station doesn’t sell diesel. According to Gasbuddy.com, the closest station that sells diesel is 4 miles away, and diesel is $3.99/gal USD. This is a decrease, because at times last year, gas was cheaper, but diesel was something in the $4.25/gal range.

      At that steep a price spread, if I owned the TDI version of my 10 year old Q7 (which didn’t exist that year in the US anyway), using the EPA estimates for fuel economy, at my current avg miles per year, I’d still need to own it for 2-3 more years before I even break even on operating costs. (I’m factoring in the amortized higher MSRP the TDI went for in the closest available model year).

      It seems to me that most Americans are making the more economical choice when they purchase a vehicle that offers a diesel and a gas engine, based on the market forces they purchase the vehicle in (driven partly by customer demand, and partly by government taxes). Because most people aren’t like me, and don’t want a car this long or try to get to 200k miles. This is even assuming that they buy, instead of lease, which is a totally different mathematical equation.

      Are we supposed to spend MORE of our money,and never see a return in the TCO if a vehicle because it happens to use the same kind of fuel more popular elsewhere?

      Ask Japanese consumers if diesel makes sense for them. I think they only make up 5% of their domestic market and were outright banned for a period in the 80’s and 90’s.

      Its almost as if different countries have different driving cultures, transport infrastructure, and taxes….imagine that!

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @newenthusiast
        Japanese motorists are limited in where they can go,so the smaller engines used are ideal for Petrol. Commercially the use diesels in Commercial vehicles, rarely Petrol..
        Arguing about whether diesels are appropriate is a US thing. Most assume Diesel for Commercial Vehicles. Europe it includes cars

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          Yet, this article or post is neither about Europe or about any vehicles that GM plans on selling there. So while I appreciate the clarification, I would comment that your intial comparison of the US to other markets is irrelevant as an answer to the question.

          Any increase of diesel’s market share as the fuel of choice will almost certainly have nothing to do with what drivers buy in Europe, but will certainly be related to a reduction or elimination of the premium int the MSRP prices of diesel powered vehicles of the same specs, and a change in the stucture of taxes here, assuming that either of things actually happen. At this current time, I don’t know of any proposals that would signal changes of either condition.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @newenthusiast
            I think you have missed my meaning. Diesel or Petrol has almost no reference to price ootside the US.
            This whole article is very US specific, Debating what fuel to use seems to be a US concern, Having an article to it is a very US thing.

          • 0 avatar
            newenthusiast

            “I think you have missed my meaning. Diesel or Petrol has almost no reference to price ootside the US.
            This whole article is very US specific, Debating what fuel to use seems to be a US concern, Having an article to it is a very US thing.”

            A Canadian car website with Canadian and American writers covers an American-based manufacturer for its overwhelmingly North American market audience and asks about the potential to sell diesels in larger part of said market….and you have a problem with it being US specific?

            https://media.tenor.co/images/56cc71f5ebcd596e574d9f9a770248d6/tenor.gif

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @newenthusiast
            Not a problem with the emphasis, but that makes it difficult to understand how people outside NA, would find the ” Gas V Diesel” areguments strange

          • 0 avatar
            newenthusiast

            “Not a problem with the emphasis, but that makes it difficult to understand how people outside NA, would find the ” Gas V Diesel” areguments strange”

            Why would a potential buyer in the US or Canada concern themselves with what a car buyer in another market might think of their purchase? Or vice versa? I don’t care if someone in Europe finds it odd that diesel isn’t popular here. I don’t live in Europe.

            I have no problems with, nor ever think think about, the fact that other countries are regulating and taxing any consumer good in a way that makes sense for their country or culture.

            I realize that the auto manufacturers scream about making one global standard, but that is tied to reducing costs on their end at the behest of their shareholders, not of any desire to help out customers and make importing/exporting vehicles around the globe easier for private citizens…or a reflection of market tastes.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The mpg and usable power of a smaller diesel in a midsize (or fullsize like Ram EcoDiesel) are very tempting. But currently all of the seemingly short lived emissions gear US diesels are saddled with along with the price premium over regular for the fuel, and above all else the huge price premium of the diesel motor over the gas one limits the appeal in a big way.

    Local Chevy dealer had a pair of Colorado Z71 crew cabs with diesels collecting dust on the lot, the asking price of $41k is just too much to stomach. You could get a very nice crew cab 4wd fullsize with a much more powerful motor and plenty of options for that amount.

    Further curious anecdotal observation: looked around at lightly used Diesel Colorados, found what looked like a pretty good deal:
    http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/691478495/overview/

    Not so fast, carfax brands it as a lemon law buy-back!

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah the GM twins price is too high. Shame because other then that I like the concept (well I don’t like the chevy front end either). The eco diesel on the ram is promising except for the massive failures the first year in emsissions equipment. They seem better now but it scares me a little. Plus the penta star ram knocks down very impressive MPG with non of the upcharge.

      My neighbor used to be a service manager at a medium duty truck dealer (he works as a rep now for a truck builder) Back when the new emissions came online he told me a ton of horror stories of trucks being in the shop twice as often the year the change was implemented. He now says it’s better but still not as good as the early 2000 trucks were. Which again leads me to the conclusion that with the added initial cost of the diesel it’s not worth it right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      gtemnykh – the few diesel Colorado/Canyon’s I’ve seen on the lot in Canada are around 50k.
      I can get a LTZ CrewCab 6.2 V8 and 8 speed with max tow with discounts for that price.
      I would like to check out the ZR1 Colorado though but price puts it in with cross-shopping a Power Wagon or Raptor.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d rather GM became America’s V8 engine answer.

  • avatar
    shedkept

    VM-Motori diesel

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’ll stay with gasoline, thank you.

    My long commute has been over for almost a month, and now ny fill-ups last ten days to two weeks instead of 3-4 days. Switching to a small diesel pickup won’t do me much good, I’m afraid.

    Secretly, I desire another truck, however!

    Still, I don’t know if having a small diesel in a smaller truck is worth it, commercially, especially if that truck is used for heavy-duty work. Perhaps for parts running and lighter duty stuff where lots of driving is involved – that would make sense.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Diesel Terrain and Equinox? I’ll be shocked if they sold more than a dozen of them. I swear I’ve seen like 3 Cruze diesels total since they came out what, like 4 years ago?

  • avatar
    mason

    People will emphatically say no! To anything diesel. Meanwhile, more and more diesels are making their way into the NA lineup each year. 5 years ago if you wanted a diesel you had two options: either an HD pickup or a smallish sedan. There are 15 new models with a diesel option for 2017 alone, and there are even more on the horizon.
    According to the bureau of transportation statistics, diesel powered passenger vehicle sales have been slowly but steadily on the rise since the late 90’s. 0.1% of all passenger vehicle sales in 1998 were diesel powered compared to 1.5% or roughly 16.5 million vehicles in 2014. A very small piece of the pie indeed but also contradictive to the whole “diesel is dead” mantra.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    Let’s be honest. How many GM products are best in class and you would buy hands down over any other competitor? I’m not sure I can name one.

    I doubt there is much overlap of potential customers for VW and GM. GM products still just have mediocre fit and finish and styling. A huge factor in addition to the diesel was the Europeanness of VWs – clean lines, tight fit, German handling (ok maybe not all in reality, but definitely all the ones Manufactured in Germany).

    Also, why do almost all new GMs look kind of dull? Is it the paints they are using? Are they doing that old trick where they would make the paint look more dull to hide panel gaps and poor alignment of the body panels (they actually did that)?

    At the Detroit auto show I just didn’t feel like any of the GM products “looked” that good. Not from a design standpoint but from a build/quality perspective.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The only Volkswagen-branded diesel made in Germany and sold in the U.S. was the Golf TDI, and that was only until 2015, when the new Mk.7 Golf (other than the e-Golf and Golf R) began production in Pueblo, Mexico. And all versions of the Touareg, including the TDI, have been made in Bratislava, Slovakia. But that’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDoctorIsOut

      Exactly. I sold back two trouble-free TDIs to VW, a Passat and a ’09 Jetta SportWagen with well over 100,000 on it. The Cruze diesel, I drove and rejected in part that it didn’t line up close enough with either of what we had but even if it did, the poor outward visiblity and comparatively cramped interior was no match for the Jetta. Admittedly I take good care of my cars in general but the interior of the Jetta still looked practically new to the point that the dealer I returned it to remarked how unfortunate it was he couldn’t resell it as a used car. The Cruze interior fabric looks like it could last but most controls felt a bit fragile and I didn’t care for the blue light special lighting of the controls. So probably not for GM becoming the diesel go-to. Mazda, or even Ford on the other hand might have stood a much better chance had they gone down that path though both are very committed to their high mileage gas solutions.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Corvette.

    • 0 avatar

      Suburban Tahoe

    • 0 avatar
      RedRocket

      Your eyes can only see your biases.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid diesels will continue to fade from the U.S. market. That said, I’m still a fan, and would love to see a potent six cylinder diesel along the lines of VAG’s 3.0L TDI. Sure, Jeep gave it a try, but that appears to have been short lived. It’s a long shot, but I’m hoping Ford rolls the dice and offers their Lion diesel in the next Explorer … especially if said Explorer becomes RWD-based.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I don’t see diesel being a big deal in the U.S. as long as diesel fuel costs more than (or the same as) 85 octane gasoline. Unless you have a long highway commute, or an insatiable need for torque, there’s no real reason to buy a diesel.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Skeptical about cars, but truck guys that really use their trucks love diesels, so I’m sure they will continue to do well in that arena.

    At a $2k premium, I think diesel Colorados would fly off the lots.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’m a huge fan of diesels, have owned and recommended diesels for decades, but I can’t do it anymore, not even in HD pickups or commercial medium-duty trucks.

    Diesels make no sense below class 8, 80,000 lbs applications. If you’ve just gotta have a diesel in your SUV/CUV/Etc, go ahead. But it’s not about economics is it? If so, lease it then walk away.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Agree, buy it for the pulling power, range between fills, or because you like the way it drives. Or maybe your like my buddy and just like diesel powered trucks. But don’t buy it because it will save you money, because it won’t.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If you’re constantly running your gas V8 full-throttle and it’s not cutting it (with properly equipped axle ratio), yeah a diesel may be for you.

        If you’re constantly running out of gas between filling station opportunities, a diesel may be for you.

        But those aren’t likely scenarios for 99% of HD pickup buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I mean I like the way diesels pull loads and the way they sound pulling hard, but those aren’t a necessity, necessarily.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            I’ve towed heavy loads with both diesel and gas trucks. Really a lot more relaxing and a less stressful experience w/diesel. If was retired and pulled a 5th wheel RV all the time, no way I’d consider a gas engine. Between the weight and more importantly the air your pushing out of your way you’d be silly to use a gas truck. Sure it would get the job done, but anytime you had to buck a bad side or head wind it would absolutely suck. Just go with a diesel and be done with it.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            WTF does the engine have to do with how the truck reacts to crosswinds?

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “WTF does the engine have to do with how the truck reacts to crosswinds?”

            How hard something like an RV or other enclosed trailer pulls rolling down the interstate has a lot to do with how hard and from what direction the wind is blowing. A good crosswind will suck every last bit of available power out of most gas engines towing a heavy load. A diesel, not so much. With my old gas powered HD, how much air I had to push out of the way meant the difference between running in overdrive or running in third. That generally was a bigger factor than the actual weight one I got everything up to speed & rolling.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    There’s something to be said about a mid-sized or even full-sized (see Ram EcoDiesel) truck with a “light-duty” V6 diesel. But as far as cars? I’m pretty much done with diesels. The gas engines don’t get particularly-worse fuel economy, and their exhaust systems are a whole lot less complex. I wonder why GM is hitching its wagon to a technology that’s clearly on its way out.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      GM diesel “technology” was probably in the ‘pipeline’ for up to a decade, when VW TDIs were becoming a rage. They’re just that slow to get to showrooms.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It looks more to me like the development work for the four-cylinders was more for the European market—where this would merely have been the new family of engines for Opel and Vauxhall—but they’ve also decided to utilize it here. I hope these are reliable and that they’re not guilty of the same tactics that Volkswagen and possibly FCA’s diesels were / are.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    DURAMAX all the things!

    I can’t believe that GM (the same company that thought the “Premiere” badge was good idea) isn’t being more “in yo face” about diesel badging.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    If my next DD is still diesel powered, it would probably be a RAM1500 EcoDiesel. Diesel emissions controls today seem like gas engine emissions controls in the 1970s though, which is not good.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The whole premise of this, diesel costing less than gasoline, may be true in parts of Canada but in the vast majority of the US it is not. In fact in many places far from it.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    How many Duramax Colorado/Canyon trucks have they sold? I haven’t seen one yet. I halfway thought about buying one, and trading in my Tacoma, but I’m skeptical they’d be as reliable as a Tacoma.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I say, keep the Tacoma, at least for the next few years, because:

      1 — It gives you a chance to see how reliable these are, at least early-on
      B – You’ll avoid the early-adopter tax for the people who’ll pay sticker, as I’m sure demand will eventually wane
      Número Tres — Since your current ride is a Tacoma, it’s not like it’s going to depreciate all that much relative to how much use you’ll get out of it, so what do you have to lose?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      I don’t doubt their reliability, but I’m waiting for the initial first-adpoter interest to wane and for GM to get back on the incentive Red Tag crack pipe and knock about 20% off the price of a well equipped WT.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “with a paltry 181 horsepower but a stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm”

    That’s the kind of motor you want in a truck!

  • avatar
    mikey

    The Diesel Colorado ,has caught my interest ..So I went to build one at GM Canada …They must have suspended Diesel production for 2017. I don’t see the Diesel option being offered .

    Several dealers have a few in inventory…A nicely optioned , but not loaded, crew, long box,,came in at $51 K +. Im sure with incentives ,and employee discount I could knock that down a bit. After Taxes and the other B.S, Im still looking at north of $50 K, out the door.

    Diesel may be a little cheaper than gas up here..Who knows when that will change ?? For that sort of cash $2500 more puts me in a Silverado double cab.

    For this old “Boomer”…Give me the full size gasser.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      mikey – I can’t justify a diesel Colorado when a 6.2 Silverado can be had for the same price.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Prob less.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        “mikey – I can’t justify a diesel Colorado when a 6.2 Silverado can be had for the same price.”

        The 6.2 is the $hit in a 1/2 ton GM truck. Stick the 4.3 V6 you can get in the 1/2 ton in the Canyon/colorado and then you’d have something.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “mikey – I can’t justify a diesel Colorado when a 6.2 Silverado can be had for the same price.”

        I paid good money for a low-mileage used 2011 Ranger when I could have had a same model year F-150 for probably $5k less. Why?

        *I didn’t want or need a hulking full-size truck.*

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          JimZ – If I didn’t need a full sized truck, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a small one. In 2010 when I bought, my top 2 choices were the F150 crew and Tacoma doublecab. The Tacoma had around 1,000 lb payload, it was too small in the cab for 2 growing boys and two 80 lb dogs. Fuel economy was almost a wash and the F150 was cheaper. I did like the 6 ft box and easier to drive dimensions.

          It is all about what you want and/or need. There are compromises with every purchase. At this point and time, there happens to be less compromise with a full sized pickup for me and probably most people with families.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Jaguar has a diesel in the XE, XF and F-Pace. The F-Pace diesel is selling well but the XE and XF not so much. The 2l diesel engine has 180HP and 316lb ft of torque.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I would actually consider the Camaro if the year dropped the 6.6L Duramax in it.

    910 ft/lbs of torque.

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