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2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel (General Motors)
2014 Chevrolet Cruze diesel (General Motors)

Diesel vehicles

Japanese, Detroit auto makers jump on the diesel bandwagen Add to ...

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen Group – including its luxury brand, Audi – have led the diesel parade for years but, for the most part, it’s been a march down main street lacking a big audience.

No more. The German car companies are upping their range of diesel offerings just as North American-based car companies and at least two Japanese auto makers are dipping their toes into the diesel pool.

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BMW’s X5 will be sold with an excellent diesel engine next spring and it will do battle with the Mercedes-Benz GL diesel and the Audi Q7 diesel. Each offering is excellent.

The latest German diesels are strong, silent types that deliver good fuel economy and power and, with advanced emissions control systems, they are also as clean as any gasoline-powered vehicle.

Interestingly, Detroit’s auto makers also seem to be showing serious, if careful, interest in diesels. Chevrolet is offering a diesel version of the Cruze sedan and rumours are swirling that General Motors is contemplating the value of offering a diesel engine for the reinvented Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups starting to go on sale right now.

Meanwhile, the updated Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV is getting a modern diesel, as is the Ram pickup, and Nissan just announced plans to offer a Cummins diesel in the Titan pickup. Mazda will start selling a diesel-powered Mazda6 sedan this winter, too. More like these are on the way. Why? Diesel jump-starts the fuel economy of a vehicle by about 30 per cent.

As Automotive News reports, if the Detroit Three and major Japanese car companies get behind diesel, this will surely have an impact on how governments tax diesel fuel in the United States – in many states, diesel is taxed at a much higher rate than gasoline. As diesel models become more available and as the fuel in the United States becomes more affordable, consumers will surely wake up to diesel’s advantages in the short run.

The main advantage as far as governments should be concerned is fuel economy. Because diesel fuel has greater energy density, vehicles that use it go further on a litre of fuel compared with gasoline.

As Automotive News suggests, this begs an obvious question: if buyers of electric vehicles get taxpayer subsidies, why shouldn’t diesel owners get a bonus, too? Why not also allow diesels to use high-occupancy lanes on the highway?

Increasingly tough fuel economy regulations are forcing changes in the makeup of the new vehicle fleet. One way to address this issue efficiently is to allow new, cleaner diesels to comprise a larger chunk of the model mix. Some will say that diesels are not a long-term solution to emissions and fuel economy issues. Perhaps. But that too might change if car companies move to include diesel-electric hybrids in their plans.

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