This will be the year of the diesel for Audi Canada and quite a number of other car companies, too.
We'll start with Audi. With four new diesel-powered cars coming to Audi dealers, the obvious question is when can we expect the fifth – that being the next-generation A4 set to arrive in 2014?
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, Audi Canada spokesman Cort Nielsen confirms that each of these four models will get Audi's 3.0-litre TDI (turbo direct injection) diesel this year: the A8 sedan, Q5 compact SUV, A6 sedan and A7 sedan.
The A8, he adds, is available this spring, with the remaining three going on sale in late summer or early fall. Nielsen adds that Audi Canada is considering bringing the A4 diesel to Canada, but offers no timetable.
However, in the United States, Automotive News is reporting that consumers will have the option of a 2.0-litre TDI engine in Audi AG's next-generation A4 sedan. Audi wants to sell more diesels in the U.S., we're told. Audi will certainly sell more diesels in Canada, when they're available.
Audi is being careful not to commit to an on-sale date for the A4 diesel. That's because an all-new version of the A4 is due for 2014. Audi in both Canada and the U.S. declined to take the diesel version of the current model, most likely for cost reasons – the cost of getting the diesel certified by governments on both sides of the border.
Here's the good news: Audi of America president Scott Keogh told the trade publication, "U.S. dealerships will be able to get the A4 with a 2.0-litre TDI engine after the new generation arrives." Adding diesel engines is one way for Audi to meet ever-more-stringent corporate fuel economy rules.
And Audi is hardly alone. According to the Diesel Technology Forum, a lobby group in the U.S., 22 new "clean" diesel vehicles will be introduced in the U.S. this year and more than 50 new diesels will reach the U.S. market by 2017. We can expect a similar number in Canada.
That prediction is based on forecasts from Bosch, a major supplier of what the industry refers to as "clean" diesel engines – engines that meet the same emissions regulations gasoline-powered vehicles, often with the addition of expensive after-treatments and particulate filters.
One of the more interesting non-German diesels coming to a showroom near you is the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze turbodiesel. It was unveiled at the 2013 Chicago auto show earlier this year.
The new 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel passenger car unveiled at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show says much about the future for diesel cars in the U.S, says Allen Schaeffer, the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.
"Without a doubt, 2013 is the most exciting and important year in the history of clean diesel autos in the U.S.," says Schaeffer in a release.
Hype aside, what's certain is that consumers want vehicles with better and better fuel economy. This has long been the case in Canada, but Americans have gotten the fuel economy bug, too. J.D. Power and Associates found in a recent study that fuel economy has become the number-one factor in vehicle choice for American.
Thus more diesels, which offer a 25-40 per cent improvement over comparable gasoline engines. Among them:
* Mercedes-Benz will have its 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML250 BlueTEC SUV diesel with 4MATIC all-wheel drive
* Mazda has confirmed it will be the only Asian auto maker to offer a diesel passenger car with its new SKYACTIV-D engine, in the Mazda6 sedan;
* Chrysler has shown its upcoming 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel.
Audi, then, is part of a larger movement to offer more diesels in all sorts of vehicles. We're not likely to see the sale of diesel-powered passenger vehicles reach 50 per cent of the market as in Europe, but some are predicting that within three to five years, diesels may account for as much as 10 per cent of passenger vehicle sales in North America. In Canada, that would mean 160,000 to 170,000 diesels sold each year.