US Diesel News

The high cost of emissions compliance and some nervousness about the size of the market for it are the prime reasons why GM’s great Euro-diesel engine isn’t available in the US.

It’s not the first time it’s been mentioned on this site, but it’s consistent with previous commentary and it’s the first mention I could find quickly. This is 1985 Gripen back in May this year:

If you can get the same diesel engine in a Saturn, Chevy, Pontiac, and SAAB it might be worth it to GM to invest the expense required to develop a 50-state emissions compliant diesel engine.

And this is from an Automobile News article emailed to me by Wulf:

General Motors views corn-based E85 ethanol as the technologically easiest solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and reducing oil dependency. GM also is working to bring diesel engines to U.S. cars in the near future.

“We’re hedging our bets for the U.S. market,” said Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman of global product development, here at the Frankfurt auto show today. “We have the gravest of doubts that diesels are the solution. But we’re forging ahead anyway just in case they become easily fathomable or the cost of the hardware drops or with the fuel economy some of the extreme emissions regulations get lowered.”

GM will borrow from its lineup of small diesel engines used in its European brands for U.S. cars, but Lutz would not give a time frame for their introduction.

And further to that, there’s this from Motor Authority, as emailed to me by David W.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, GM CEO revealed that he would like to see more Opel diesel models head over to the US where they could be re-badged as Saturns. While he may seem overly optimistic, the GM Chief is aware of the negative preconceived image of diesel-powered cars held by many Americans and acknowledges the fuel costs roughly the same as petrol in the US, unlike Europe where it’s often the cheaper of the two.

Despite this, Wagoner believes the benefits of diesel is too strong and, following the launch of several diesel Saturns, other GM brands such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Saab will also offer diesels in the US.

There has GOT to be a way to get that TTiD engine into the US market. It’a a killer. These articles give a ray of hope.

Fingers crossed.

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  1. GM if you are reading this, and I know you are…..

    I am in the USA and would buy a diesel. I would even trade in my old car even if it was a year old to buy one.

    It’s a no brainer. People will buy diesels MORE than E85 because you get a lot better gas mileage.

    And yes, I would pay $1-2k more for a diesel engine.

  2. I think the first thing to do is break the myth that the emissions systems will cost a lot to pass in the US. That was true when most of the diesel fuel in the US had higher levels of sulfur, which damages standrd emissions control systems. Now that Ultra low sulfur diesel is available (in many more outlets than E85) the same emissions controls that pass in Europe should pass in California too. This is why companies like VW are hyping their diesel heritage in the US lately.

    As for costing more up front – if the price increase for a diesel engine is in the proximate to the savings an owner would realize at the pump (due to better MPG) over three or four years then it’s an easy objection to overcome – “would you rather give your $$ to Saab or the oil companies?”

    I think Saab would be a great brand to pilot diesel in the US – Steve Shannon seems to get it that Saab shoppers are comparing more to European brands than other GM offerings. It will take some more marketing to overcome some preconvieved notions, but that re-education effort is assisted by the other manufacturers bringing diesel passenger cars to the US next year.

  3. What risk is there for GM? I mean, they’ve already got the TTiD engine in Europe. They simply import those cars into the U.S. to gauge interest. If they don’t sell, don’t import them anymore. Seems simple to me.

    I know the additional cost of building a diesel keeps being brought-up whenever the question is asked why we don’t have diesels in the U.S., but apparently they’re offering them in Europe and the premium isn’t so huge that it’s hurting sales.

    Throw SCC onto a TTiD diesel to pass U.S. emissions laws and be done with it! 🙂

  4. Okay, I realized that SCC in its native form would not directly work on a diesel as it controls the spark from the spark plugs not present on a diesel. But I’m sure they could use the same theory and adapt it to the diesel engine.

    Not only did SCC increase fuel economy by 10%, but it reduced CO (carbon monoxide) and hydrocarbon emissions by almost 50% and reduced NOx (nitrogen oxide, the big problem byproduct of diesel engines and major contributor to smog) by 75%! Further, CO₂ (carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change) was reduced by 10%.

  5. Since I’m already hogging the comments in this post, let me add regarding what I wrote back in May that Swade references in the post:

    Not only could they use “economies of scale” to reduce the price of diesel engines by sharing them across GM brands in the U.S. as I proposed, GM already pretty much does this kind of thing. There aren’t a lot of GM engines left that are used by only one marque. I mean, the engine that SAAB uses in the Aero is manufactured by Holden. The 2.0T engine I believe was originally an Opel design, but can be found in other GM products (the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky immediately come to mind). GM’s engines are now “global” powerplants.

    About the only engine I can think of off-hand that only appears in one model is that 2.9-liter V6 (250 hp, 406 lb-ft of torque) diesel that’s going to be offered in the ’08 Cadillac CTS in Europe only, but will hopefully find its way into the next-gen Epsilon 2-based 9⁵. Just imagine what SAAB could do by turbocharging this into an Aero TTiD version (with XWD and ReAxs)!

  6. I think GM is pretty much in a reactive mode. There is no good reason that they can’t have had a Biopower 9-5 in the US market last year. How much would it cost them, a reprogrammed ECU? What other euro sedan could offer the same?

    They don’t see Audi, BMW or Volvo doing it so they aren’t going to take a risk. So too with the diesels. They’ll wait for Honda to have a 50 state Accord diesel before they get serious.

    They talk about the turbo-x being revolutionary. Thats great they have the newest Haldex system but AWD has been available on other cars for years. Haldex 4G won’t be exclusive to SAAB for long. SAAB is just catching up.

    If SAAB were bringing a right sized flex fuel or diesel powered XWD car to the US in 2008 then they could claim to be revolutionary.

  7. Put me down as another “I am in the USA and would buy a diesel” vote — while E85 and BioPower is certainly a compelling option, I think that if given the choice, I would probably lean toward TTiD. So what the hell, Saab: give us both. Now. Let’s get the ball rolling in the US!

  8. “What risk is there for GM? I mean, they’ve already got the TTiD engine in Europe. They simply import those cars into the U.S. to gauge interest. If they don’t sell, don’t import them anymore. Seems simple to me.”

    Negative, it’s even easier than that! Offer them as “European Delivery Program Only”. Then you don’t have to import ANY until AFTER the customer buys them! (or just import a few for display/promo purposes)

  9. Let me preface this with “there’s a very good chance I could be completely wrong about all of this,” but:

    It’s my understanding that all of the small diesel engines that GM is currently using in Europe (in Saab, Open, and Vauxhall) are sourced from Fiat. There would be a large fixed cost for GM to develop NOx-reduction systems for these Fiat engines (either something similar to MB/Audi/VW/BMW’s Bluetec (urea-injection) or Honda’s (ammonia-production-and-injection)). Unfortunately, GM severed its ties with Fiat a couple years ago, so I have a feeling that all the small diesels being used are for fulfillment of the previous contract. GM isn’t going to put any R&D/engineering money into engines that are essentially EOLd (end-of-lifed). Fortunately, GM did just partner up with VM Motori for the new 2.9L diesel V6. I’m guessing that it’s this engine (along with other VM Motori engines currently being developed) that GM is putting the engineering money into for a NOx-reduction system that’ll be 50-state compliant.

    My guess? The first small diesel we see in the states from GM (probably Saturn) will be a next-generation VM Motori mill rather than one of the Fiats currently being used, and that’s why it’s still a few years off. At that point, as long as it’s perceived successful in the Saturn product, it’ll be easy/cheap to deploy it to Saab and anywhere else within the GM/North American portfolio.

  10. Its not that easy for diesel. They need to have a car that will pass EPA II and CARB2. That probably is why Volkswagon was selling 2006 TDi Jettas during 2007. I think Bluetec does it and Honda says theirs will.

    To my knowledge a TTiD will not pass emissions fresh off the boat. I’d like to know what it will take to get from Euro 5 emissions to CARB2.

  11. What Saab needs to do is get a high profile event together in the US where they take all of their alternative fuel offerings (diesel and Bio when they are US ready) and pull some sort of record-breaking endurance run — like Talledega again.

    Oh … and do it in convertibles … call it some sort of “Fresh Air” promotion.

  12. To add to above post:

    In a world where most people are troubled by the emissions of a gasoline engine, Saab would be crazy to talk diesel.

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