Diesel publicity on the rise (US)

Via Autoblog, there’s a great article in BusinessWeek about the slowly swelling interest in deisel engines in the US. It’s a good background primer about why diesel hasn’t been available there and just how prevalent it is in the Euro market (in some countries, diesels now comprise the majority of new sales).

The key date for the US is very close, it’s actually October this year according to Autoblog. At that time, new low-sulfur fuel regulations will kick in, making the fuel much cleaner, the emissions much lower and the viablity of diesels in the US market much greater.

In light of this, the following email has just been shot off to Saab USA:

Dear Gents,

As you should be aware, new laws that mandate the lowering of sulfur content in diesel fuel will come into play later this year. The American market has a jaundiced view of diesels due to bad historical experiences, but new diesel technologies have improved performance, mileage and importantly, the ‘cleanliness’ of the vehicle in the mind of the customer.

Can you advise as to whether or not the US market will receive the diesel variants of either the 9-5 or 9-3 range that are currently so successful in the UK and European markets? If so, is there a ballpark date for the release of these vehicles and if not, then why not?

Diesel power is gaining momentum in the US with several car companies announcing the arrival of new diesel models in the new year. With Saab having an already enviable environmental reputation as well as a proven winner in the 1.9 TiD, the time seems right for this vehicle to come to the US market.

Looking forward to your response.


Steven Wade

You can be sure that the response will be published as soon as it’s received.

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  1. Ya cant say it any plainer Swade. GM should be cranking these small diesels out of Tonawanda (the largest engine plant in the world?)big time for many models. Having the behemoth 6.6L Duramax as the only US Dengine is myopic. Those Dodge/Freightliner Sprinters with the 2.7L 5 cylinder MB TDs are flying off the lots and they get close to 30 mpg. Swade USD20 says you hear nata.

  2. The new low-sulfur diesel is actually available through selected ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Corporation – a subsidiary of BP) stations in California and has been for a while.


    Good luck finding a new diesel car for sale in California though. Even the TDI VWs aren’t sold in California. Nor diesel-powered Mercedes, as far as I know. I believe due to air quality issues here in Cali that the next-gen diesels must be on par (regarding Particulate Matter emissions) with gasoline cars to be permitted for sale in the state.

    The article mentions that diesel engines emit 25% less CO2 (a good thing) but don’t mention the PM issue too much. They touched on it with the “hankie test” thing, but I question whether this next-gen of diesels will take care of the PM issue. Sure, that Toyota has a ton of filters (how often do these have to be replaced, at what cost, and how to properly dispose of them?), but what about the other diesels? In some parts of L.A. the sky is brown from diesel particulate matter from ships idling in the harbor, trains running to and from the ships, and semis running to and from the port.

    Diesel fuel is pretty expensive too, probably due to low demand. Few filling stations even carry it and when they do it’s typically more expensive than regular unleaded. Right now where I live reg. unl. goes for about $3.25/gal average whereas a gallon of diesel is probably around $3.37 average.

    The upside with diesel is that you can run pure biodiesel w/o modification, right? There are a few places in my state where one can buy biodiesel, but I don’t know the price premium over regular diesel (I believe it’s about 10%).

    I’m on a green kick right now, just having bought a TerraPass for both my wife’s and my SAABs and my personal miles on my company lease car! This is a carbon offset credit system.


  3. I really believe that 2007 will be the year of the diesel in the U.S.

    We want cheap, powerful, efficient cars. GM is just wrong if they aren’t planning many 2007 diesel passenger cars (including Saabs).

  4. Its quite ironical that now in Europe many countries are taking measures to reduce the sales of Diesel cars, and the carmakers are trying to find new powerplants and other ways to reduce the pollution, obtain good performance and low consumption. Now its becoming more and more important the Petrol turbo engines as a solution and avoid the big complexity of nowadays Diesel engines, and low capability of increasing the efficiency without increasing the cost of production and decreasing the reliability.

    Here in Europe one of the biggest problems of many brands of its reliability are the diesel engines, and you need to make quite a lot miles if you like that the purchase of the Diesel car is profitable. Also the Diesel fuel its becoming more and more expensive and the real advantage of the diesel its is lower consumption, but in few years the new generation of direct injection, valve timing and other technologies introduced in petrol engines will reduce drastically this advantage.

    For me it hasn’t many sense to spend a lot of money introducing a technollogy that it has less future than many others as Ethanol, electric o new petrol engines.

  5. Regarding diesel particulate filters.
    The filters are maintenance free and designed to last the life span of the car. Sensors indicate when the filter is full of soot and tells the engine management system to go into regeneration mode, raising the exhaust temperature causing the soot the be burnt off without further pollution.
    Somewhat simplified but that’s how it basically works.

  6. Thanks for the explanation, DrApa. However, I wonder how the soot can be “burnt off” “without further polution”. Whenever something is burnt, there is residue byproduct. Burning off pure particulate matter is sure to increase emissions, I would think.

    I would be very surprised to see a slew of ’07 diesels suddenly on sale in the U.S. That’s this coming model year. You’d think that every car company who’s planning on introducing a diesel to the U.S. market would have already announced it.

  7. With the 1.9TID there are some issues with the particle filter and the regeneration mode that Saab hopes to solutionate with a mod of the software and the system. Also it happened some problems with the system that is used in the 150bhp version that makes the engine work as 8v or 16v.

    Its a deception that this 1.9TID as modern engine uses timing belt and not chain.

    The performance and roadholding quality of nowadays engines are incredibly good, and pleasant, but also inreased a lot its complexity and that makes it less reliable and more expensive to mantain, produce, and develope.

    The V6TID used in the 9-5 was a very good engine, developed with Isuzu, it has a timing belt that can be changed once at 180000km, and some other mantainance free features, but Saab only offer it during 2 years because it was on of the less reliable cars it made in its history, but its performance, smoothness and driving pleasure was incredibly high.

    I am so tired of hearing many cases of issues with diesel engines in every brand, to give them a bright future against the new technologies and innovations or upgrade of nowadays gasoline engines.

    The Bluetec for example its another example of how you can add more complexity to an engine with more mantainance costs for the user, that for me it has no sense compared to another technologies.

  8. I tested the 2.2TID 9-3ss, when Saab release to some customers the 9-3ss, I could make a test drive in the Montmelo Track and I loved the car, few months later I purchased one. I was quite impressed with the 2.2TID with 125bhp, its smoothness, good insonorization, power, for a car with an old engine(the 2.2TID it has a lot of time)…..but like the 2.0t mmmmm. The diesel engine is perfect if you make a lot of miles, but the maintainance costs and reliability is not as good as it must be.

    The 1.9TID in the Saab its a very good combination, in many reviews/comparison tests its the best for the cars that uses the 1.9TID GM-Fiat Powertrain, with the best performance and consumption, and that with the highest gearbox ratios, but well made and useable.

    but at this time I would prefer an 2.0T with SIDI, valve timing, biopower….

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