General Motors Believes Diesel Lovers Haven't Stopped Loving Diesels

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

General 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.”

It 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.”

GM’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, 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 and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Aug 16, 2017

    "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.

  • Backtees Backtees on Aug 16, 2017

    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.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.