GM to Europe: Don't Be so Down on Diesel

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Even though General Motors gleefully offloaded its European division to the French, it still maintains a slight presence in the region. A powertrain engineering center in Turin, Italy remains in the GM fold, which gave the automaker an opportunity to dish on a much-maligned propulsion source: diesel fuel.

Hey, this stuff’s still useful, the automaker’s CEO of global diesel development, Pierpaolo Antonioli, told an uncertain European crowd this week.

Sure, Volkswagen opened regulators’ (and the public’s) eyes to emissions manipulations and the real-world impact of widespread diesel use, but that doesn’t mean high-torque compression ignition engines should hit the trash, Antonioli said.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Antonioli said new technology could turn everyone’s frown upside down. Fewer emissions for the environmentalists, efficiency for consumers, and long ranges and pulling power for automakers.

“Internal combustion engines, including the diesel, can still play a role for the next years to come,” the executive said, even as European cities prepare to outlaw diesel engines in certain areas (with full internal combustion bans looming beyond the horizon). Germany’s already given the green light to cities to ban diesel vehicles with impunity.

“Bosch said just a few weeks ago that they can already achieve very low emissions, especially from NOx, without increasing the cost of the combustion system,” he added.

Robert Bosch GmbH, which was implicated in the VW diesel affair, claims its technology could reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions — the key ingredient in smog — to just one-tenth of the levels permitted under Europe’s ultra-stringent Euro 6 standard. It can do it, Bosch says, without too much extraneous hardware. No production vehicle currently carries Bosch’s new system.

Even as diesel’s European popularity falls faster than a close talker at an office party, GM sees niche roles for the technology in its American offerings — roles, at least in the truck space, that aren’t likely to change anytime soon. The diesel Chevrolet Cruze remains on the market, as does sparkless variants of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain (not to mention the Duramax-powered Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon). The automaker’s revamped full-size pickups, which appear on dealer lots this year, will come with the option of a 3.0-liter inline-six diesel produced in Flint, Michigan.

[Image: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jun 07, 2018

    We have this here new inline 6 diesel to flog. Spent millions developing it. Of course diesel has a future! You Europeans are crying wolf. Arooooooo! GM for the win! The practical matter of it is that injecting enough urea into the exhaust will get rid of NOx. Enough references around on that. Gooogeable. It's a chemical reaction that produces innocuous products. All this cheating came about because nobody wanted to incorporate big enough urea tanks into cars, nor provide a sales impediment that might turn off the average owner. And of course the Germans wanted to sell cheap as pisse urea as Ad Blue abd make a fortune on the side. Back when the VW diesel thing went nuts in Sept 2015, there was a report from Leeds University in the UK about their roadside NOx testing. Cars, diesel cars, but cars nevertheless had up to 20 times more NOx than diesel buses and trucks, which slurp up urea due to bigger tanks. All the other obfuscation we've been treated to since ignores this simple fact. Much like politics, the human brain latches on to the first thing it hears that agrees with its preconceived notions, and the stage is set for the BS to fly. Throw away logic and barf out nonsense, the human condition since time immemorial. We all love our generalizations and old wives tales. Look at the homeopathic "remedies" in drug stores - if any of them worked, nobody would ever get ill.

  • Voyager Voyager on Jun 09, 2018

    Europe to GM: make great-looking cars with superior fit, finish, fuel efficiency and performance you can actually sell and export to Europe... instead of having Trump come down on European import cars to cover your ass.

  • GregLocock Not interested at all. Apparently I've got Apple car play but I've never used it in 3 years. The built in nav is ok.
  • Corey Lewis Probably worth about what they're asking, given its condition. The color combo isn't a desirable one, they look sharper in non-beige shades. Like two-tone green, maroon, navy, or gray. The end of the time when MB built its cars properly. No shame in turning up in a clean W126, they'll always command respect.
  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.