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Diesel Model Tally Set to Double for 2014

Nissan, Audi, Chevrolet key to rapid growth.

by on Aug.22, 2013

At 46 mpg highway, the new Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel gives even hybrids a run for their (gas) money.

The number of diesel models on the U.S. market should double during the 2014 model-year, according to various industry-watchers, the high-mileage powertrain technology set to get its biggest boost since falling out of favor with American motorists back in the 1980s.

The sudden surge reflects the advent of new diesel technology that not only maintains an estimated 30% mileage advantage over gasoline engines, but also resolves traditional concerns such as noise, roughness and foul-smelling emissions.

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It also reflects the return to the diesel market by manufacturers like General Motors, the emergence of new makers including Nissan, and the expansion of offerings by diesel leaders such as Volkswagen and is luxury arm Audi.

“This year, the number of diesels will be doubled,” said Andreas Sambal, the North American director of marketing for German supplier Bosch’s diesel systems division. “By the end of the 2014 model-year there will be 40 diesels on the market and this will give consumers a lot more choice.”

Audi is introducing several diesel-powered models.

Diesels have been a bit player in the U.S. market ever since the late 1980s when U.S. buyers largely abandoned the technology due to endemic problems with earlier diesel designs – and in the wake of major and embarrassing failures of several GM engines.

Since then, proponents of diesel technology have lamented a chicken-and-egg problem. Many manufacturers were reluctant to enter the diesel market because of low sales. But proponents warned that sales wouldn’t grow until there were now more diesel offerings. The coming model-year will put their claims to the test.

Nissan this week became the latest maker to announce plans to launch a diesel option for its full-size Titan pickup, a first for a Japanese maker. The 5.0-liter V-8 turbodiesel will be supplied by Cummins, Inc., Nissan noted.

“Truck owners told us there’s a demand for the performance and torque of a diesel in a capable truck that doesn’t require the jump up to a heavy-duty commercial pickup,” said Fred Diaz, vice president for North American Nissan sales and marketing.

Diaz’s former employer, Chrysler, just last month announced plans to add a diesel option for the 2014 Ram 1500 pickup. There is speculation GM will soon do the same for its GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks.

But Chevy has already staked out a return to the diesel passenger car market with an “oil-burner” option for its 2014 Cruze sedan. And Mazda will become the first Japanese maker with a passenger car diesel with a new version of its Mazda6 sedan.

Those makers have a long way to go to catch up on the German makers who have spearheaded the diesel revival – notably VW and its luxury arm Audi. A third of the Q7 crossovers the highline brand sells in the U.S. are equipped with diesels and more than half of the old A3 wagons were equipped with oil-burners.

Audi will bump its diesel model count from two to five for the 2014 model-year and will add a sixth when it introduces a new version of the A3.

(Volkswagen hustling to meet demand for Passat diesels. For more, Click Here.)

Diesels have accounted for less than 3% of the total U.S. new vehicle market even after recent growth spurts but Bosch forecasts that will reach as much as 10% by 2018. That is an admittedly “bullish” forecast, said the supplier’s Sambal. But other, more cautious forecasts predict the share could rise to 8% or higher.

Notably, diesel sales surged by 24% during the first seven months of 2013.

There are still obstacles to increased acceptance, cautioned Nicole Barranco, Audi’s diesel lobbying chief, ranging from higher fuel taxes to outdated perceptions by consumers unaware of modern diesel technology changes.

(Click Here to read about the issues automakers have with bio-diesel.)

On the other hand, there are some key factors that could help diesel gain traction as awareness grows, said Bruce Belzowski, assistant research chief at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

For one thing, he noted during a forum sponsored by Audi, there’s the roughly 30% mileage boost the technology offers. And that, in turn, means that “almost all” diesel models “have a positive total cost of ownership” despite the typically higher purchase price.

A recent study by UMTRI found that even a small VW Jetta will save the typical owner about $3,000 over a three-year period while the total cost of buying and operating a Mercedes-Benz GL diesel is about $15,600 less than the gasoline version.

Meanwhile, as more diesels get into production that could lower the cost penalty, advocates suggest, further improving the appeal of the technology.

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6 Responses to “Diesel Model Tally Set to Double for 2014”

  1. heyfred3000 says:

    Its about time! Most people aren’t even aware they’re following a diesel VW, Mercedes, Audi, or BMW. No smoke, no stink, no noise. In fact, from 2009 to 2012, the diesel described here was the ONLY motor offered in the high-line version of the Cruze in Europe, due to its big power and mileage advantage over the gasoline turbo.

  2. Sidney says:

    And if Chevy wasn’t myopic, they would offer the European Cruze diesel wagon. Unfortunately, the SUV/Crossover segment carries on unabated, seemingly smothering demand for a light, efficient wagon. I believe there are a lot of empty-nesters who would embrace a handy Australian “Ute” as well.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Sadly, Sidney, you’d have most of us automotive journalists agreeing with you. But not the general public. And that’s why we’ve seen such promising wagons as the Cadillac CTS and Dodge Magnum vanish from the market, while Audi is migrating from a wagon to a sedan for the next-gen US version of the A3. Perhaps someday American motorists will get the appeal.

      Paul A. Eisenstein
      Publisher, TheDetroitBureau.com

  3. Jorge M. says:

    VW’s Jetta sport wagon sells well in the U.S. Audi has done OK in the U.S. over the years with their Avant/wagon too.

    As far as Diesels from the 80′s onward, the Germans and Cummins have had great Diesels from the 70′s to date and they will continue to maintain theie leading edge.

    Chrysler was scheduled to use a small Cummins Diesel in the 1500 RAM trucks and some SUVs but Fiat stuck a Euro Fiat Diesel in them. Fiat sells some real crap in Europe so it remains to be seen if this Diesel is crap or decent.

  4. [...] TheDetroitBureau.com reports that the 2014 model year will see the number of diesel vehicles offered in the US double to about 40 nameplates, but the news gets even better for fans of these torquey and efficient powerplants. LMC Automotive has released data about future expectations of diesel cars in the US, and it predicts that sales should be very close to one million units in 2015 (up from an expected 600,000 units this year). By 2018, LMC’s calculations suggest that sales will more than double from this year’s expected totals accounting for almost 8 percent of new light-vehicle sales. [...]

  5. [...] Mazda, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors are starting to get serious about diesel in America. TheDetroitBureau.com reports that the 2014 model year will see the number of diesel vehicles offered in the US double to [...]