By on August 16, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Cruze diesel underhood - Image: GMGeneral Motors’ diesel-powered midsize pickup trucks are the only midsize pickup trucks available in America with diesel engines. GM’s Chevrolet Cruze is the only compact car on sale in America with a diesel engine. Although the Mazda CX-5 is scheduled to arrive later this year, diesel-powered editions of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain will be the first small utility vehicles with diesel options.

With all the negative diesel press earned largely by the eruption of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in September 2015, is GM’s investment in America’s diesel market a complete and utter waste?

GM obviously thinks not. “I don’t think diesel customers forgot why they liked driving diesels in the last two years,” GM’s vice president for global propulsion systems, Dan Nicholson, tells Automobile. “They didn’t forget about the driving character or the fuel economy.”

Moreover, Nicholson says of the tens of thousands of former Volkswagen TDI owners, “We don’t think those customers went away.”

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel - Image: GMIt could be easily argued that GM is providing U.S. customers with a better diesel product than Volkswagen. The 1.6-liter turbocharged diesel in the Cruze produces 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque — roughly on par with the 150 horsepower; 236 lb-ft 2.0-liter diesel from the last Jetta TDI — but is rated as high as 30 mpg city; 52 mpg highway. The last Jetta TDI available in America offered similar city mileage but didn’t climb higher than 44 mpg on the highway.

Besides, Volkswagen’s diesel was cheating its way around emissions standards. GM’s Nicholson says, “We’re committed to compliance of the standards,” claiming hand-in-hand cooperation with the EPA “throughout the whole process to be very transparent with what technologies that we have and how the vehicles perform on the required tests so that it’s really understood.”2017 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel badge - Image: GMGM’s hopes for consumer faith rest not on GM — known to weasel its way around standards in the past — but on the actual diesel format. “The technology itself was not the problem,” Nicholson says. Cheating was the problem.

Nicholson says the broader diesel array GM is now supplying in the U.S. is simply a decision to enhance choice. “If you’re driving a lot of miles per year, it’s mostly highway, you want to go on extended trips, and you live in say an area like Wyoming,” Nicholson explains, “then you might not be a Bolt customer.”

According to HybridCars.com, fewer than 500 copies of the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel were sold in the first seven months of 2017, just 0.4 percent of the Cruze’s overall total. GM expects more diesel buyers to appear when the engine is offered in the hatchback.

Meanwhile, 7,192 Colorado and Canyon buyers have opted for the 2.8-liter diesel, or 9 percent of the trucks’ total. Chevrolet expects the Equinox’s diesel engine to be selected 5 percent of the time for roughly 1,100-1,200 monthly sales.

[Images: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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23 Comments on “General Motors Believes Diesel Lovers Haven’t Stopped Loving Diesels...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Isn’t the headline a bit tautological?

  • avatar
    jack4x

    So where is my Duramax Suburban?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Make mine a Cruze brown over brown leather with a 6mt

  • avatar

    I currently own a 335d, tuned, you couldn’t pry that car away from me for almost anything! I wish diesels were being made like that 335d, so powerful, so fun. Now they all seem to be little 4 cyl turbos, not my cup of tea… Regardless, I’m looking into a diesel ZR2, just seeing if they are reliable first, and also seeing the tuning capabilities.

  • avatar
    arach

    I’ve never met a diesel owner that is soured by Diesel because of Dieselgate.

    Soured by VW? Sure, but not innately soured by Diesel.

    So I agree. Its was “bad PR” for political and legal arguments against gas and EVers, but I don’t think the PR had any influence on diesel owners or their behavior.

  • avatar
    TheDoctorIsOut

    As a replacement for my 110,000 mile Jetta Sportwagen it took about 90 seconds to get in, look around, get out, and reject the Cruize as the VW alternative. You paid more for the VW but got you at least what looked and felt like a better grade of materials and assembly. It also drove extremely well, feeling sporty with the DSG transmission contributing to that. I chose the Sportwagen initially to replace a Ford Explorer that got turned in as I’ve said before during Cash for Clunkers; there was very little I found that I couldn’t have put in either car’s cargo area despite the Jetta’s much smaller footprint, but with mileage that was more than twice of the Ford. And despite some of the commentary I have read here in the past, mine was trouble-free the only issue being a leaky panorama sunroof that was covered in part by a class action settlement. The day that I turned it in to the dealer they remarked how clean it was, saying just giving it a car wash and they could put it back on the lot has a used car and get good resale money for it.By contrast the inside of the cruise looks and feels cheap but also cramped, with those giant A-pillars there were large parts of the dealer’s showroom I couldn’t see much less a cement mixer on the road. Believe me, it’s no contest.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    I am a former VW TDI owner from way back who now drives a Colorado Diesel. I love the truck, and for me as a first-time truck buyer, its only real competition was the GMC twin. It all came down to styling, and of course, the engine. I just returned from a 5700 km trip to PEI (drove right by Tim Cain’s hometown), and averaged 17.3 L/100 km towing a 4000 lb trailer at speeds averaging 110 km/h. GM did a nice job on the Colorado/Canyon diesels, and I am wholeheartedly in favour of GM’s diesel push.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Waste of resources. Trucks, sure. CUVs and sedans. These will be so low volume that I cannot see how it’ll recover the initial research cost.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      It is interesting that you think you know better than a major OEM. GM, FCA,and Mazda are all bringing new models to the table. Rest assured more will follow in years to come partly in response to the delirious CAFE requirements.
      And they can do it without a single subsidy unlike ev and hybrids.

      • 0 avatar
        jh26036

        Do you have insider info or you’re just speculating like everybody else on this blog?

        Look, I love diesels, tried the whole JSW TDI thing. Fun while it lasted. I consider myself an enthusiast but not enough for me to try a diesel car again. It wasn’t that good. I can’t convince any normal person to ever even look at one. They are more expensive to buy and fuel economy isn’t ridiculously better.

        • 0 avatar

          Pretty much this. I liked my TDi, and might still end up buying a Golf R, but the compression ignition part is in my past. I don’t need to learn about the multiple cats and DPF system…again.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          Insider info? Nah, just common sense.

          Diesel at a passenger/consumer level has an inherent advantage in that it gets tried and true tech from big brother a.k.a. the commercial/agricultural/mining/marine/locomotive industry. Industry that NEEDS diesel to survive because nothing else can hold a candle to it when considering the bottom line. When you take R&D out of the equation you can afford some aftertreatment equipment that costs more than other tech – Especially when you consider the CAFE requirements Obummer dreamed up while visiting Never Never Land.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      GM has made hundreds of thousands of this diesel engine for their Opel models since 2013. It’s hardly new. And Opel still makes Opels until PSA works out what Opel will become.

      Obviously GM couldn’t afford to develop this diesel for the niche US market, But they don’t have to. The factory for the diesel engine is in Hungary. When GM sold Opel to PSA, it wasn’t clear if that sale included things like this factory and other GM Europe holdings and who cares anyway. Peugeot reckon themselves as diesel masters so no doubt they’ll turf this engine in due time.

      In the meantime each diesel GM sells helps pay the overhead on the existing factory, and costs them very little to shove in the Cruze and Equinox. The Cruze and Opel Astra are related. All they had to do was come up with a marketing sob story about diesel lovers and bet some people will crawl out of the woodwork and buy one.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Medium_Diesel_engine

  • avatar
    jjster6

    I’d love a diesel, but for me, the cost/benefit equation doesn’t cut it. YMMV.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I think this “second push” for Diesel is a little misguided and late to the game, regardless of VW’s screwup. Diesel was a fanstastic stop-gap for the past 15-20 years while we waited on gas engines to get better through direct injection, mass-market turbochargers, etc. And for hybrids and electrics to improve through better batteries. Both of those have happened.

    10 years ago, I was about the biggest Diesel fan you could find. But I never convinced myself it was a perfect solution for all drivers, nor whether the cost and complexity of modern Diesel engines were worth it — to say nothing of the $0.30-$0.80/gallon premium that much of the country pays for Diesel fuel, depending on price spikes vs gas.

    I’m very, very bearish on Diesel at the moment, at least for sub-5,000# everyday cars. It surprises me that GM, Mazda, and others are (FINALLY) getting on board. But I’ll reserve judgment and wait for the sales numbers…

  • avatar
    brettc

    cars.com only shows 849 new diesel Cruzes nationwide. Looks like it’s slim pickins’ for people that want one. I’m looking forward to the diesel CX-5’s appearance, it could potentially be for me. (If not, back to Plan A: used C-Max)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Although the (diesel) Mazda CX-5 is scheduled to arrive later this year…”

    I’ll believe that when I see it.

    Small diesels are like Mazdas: Rave reviews, few takers.

  • avatar
    backtees

    Anytime diesel and GM appear in same sentence it takes a LOT of work to forget the 80’s attempt by GM. Future QOTD…..try and name a bigger engine product failure than that episode.


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