GM sees growth in diesel car sales; Chevy Cruze diesel readied for 2013

(April 29, 2012) DETROIT — The planned U.S. introduction of a 2.0-liter clean turbo diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze next year is expected to benefit from growing interest in diesel cars, sales of which could double by mid-decade, according to market research firm Baum and Associates.

Diesel car sales, which account for 3 percent of U.S. sales today, are trending up, having jumped 35 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. Diesel car sales grew more than 27 percent last year, according to the Diesel Technology Forum. Baum and Associates predicts diesel to account for 6 percent of car sales by 2015.

General Motors sold more than half a million diesel-powered cars across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America last year, including 33,000 Cruzes.

The North American introduction of a diesel engine on Cruze – one of the top-selling gasoline-powered cars in the U.S. in 2011 and General Motors’ best-selling model globally – is expected to establish Chevrolet as the only domestic automaker offering an American- manufactured diesel-powered compact car with a European-American developed engine.

“Even with high fuel prices, we’re seeing more consumers willing to invest in more advanced technology, fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a non-profit educational organization. “We’re really excited about what the Chevy Cruze brings to this segment. It’s already a successful car in its fuel efficiency and market acceptance. With GM’s advanced clean-burning diesel technology under the hood, Cruze stands to be a game changer.”

Diesel engines have long been known for their fuel efficiency and spirited performance. Due to a higher compression ratio and greater energy density of the diesel fuel itself, diesel engines are able to produce more power than equivalent displacement gasoline-powered engines.

Compact cars with diesel engines typically deliver more than 40 miles per gallon, spirited performance, strong durability and high lease residual values – all attributes Chevy expects to be true of the Cruze Diesel as well.

The 2.0L clean turbo diesel engine coming to the Cruze has resolved drawbacks consumers associated with older generation diesel cars, such as excessive engine noise, exhaust soot and smell. Precisely controlled common rail direct-injection fuel systems create a smooth-running engine. About one of every two U.S. service stations now offers diesel fuel, up from one in three a few years ago, according to Diesel Technology Forum.

“Consumers realize that today’s diesel cars are cleaner, less noisy and faster than they used to be, and have a relatively lower cost of entry than some hybrids and EVs,” said Michael Omotoso, powertrain analyst, LMC Automotive. “Consumers also are more receptive to diesel fuel because of $4 per gallon gasoline.”

Historically, diesel cars have sold strongly in Europe, where the fuel is less expensive than highly taxed gasoline. In the United States, diesel fuel typically costs between 25 and 40 cents more than gasoline, but the difference has been trending downward the past couple of years, according to Schaeffer. When factoring in diesel’s relatively higher fuel efficiency, he said the cost differential appears less significant.

“Small displacement diesel engines could fill an important niche in Chevrolet’s diverse four-cylinder lineup,” said Mike Weidman, Cruze marketing manager. “We recognize this technology’s considerable appeal, particularly with young male car buyers, and we are ready to win them over with quality, torque and fuel economy.”