In February, reports began to circulate that Chevy was preparing to offer a diesel version of its popular Cruze compact in the North America. (Diesel Cruze models are already offered in Europe and Asia, but American carmakers have been extremely reluctant to sell diesels in their home country.) At the time, a GM spokesperson said the carmaker had no immediate plans to offer the variant, but that “if market demand requires it in the United States, we could move quickly on it.” Apparently, the time has come.
Today, Chevrolet confirmed that it would in fact be selling its first diesel-powered car in the United States in more than two decades. Details are still scarce but GM has confirmed that it will hit the market in 2013, and reports have the car being built at the same Lordstown, Ohio, site as the other available Cruze models.
The diesel Cruzes offered in Europe and Asia have similar fuel economy to the most fuel-efficient current variant of the car, the Chevy Cruze Eco. The appeal lies in their added oomph—the 2.0-liter Australian Cruze diesel model provides about 33 percent more torque and 10 more horsepower than the 1.4-liter Cruze Eco.
But with gas prices high and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards threatening to climb to 56.2 mpg by 2025, efficiency has recently joined power as a primary driver in the U.S. market. Since turbocharged diesel engines are more efficient than their gas counterparts, Chevy has the happy option of offering more power, more efficiency, or some combination of the two. According to one report from earlier this month, the diesel may offer highway fuel economy of 50 mpg.
The Chevy Cruze has been a major hit for GM this year and in June was the country’s best-selling compact for the second consecutive month—at a time when compacts are selling very well. The Cruze Eco has also been a success, accounting for more than 20 percent of total sales.
The test for the diesel variant will likely be its price. The Chevy Cruze Eco starts at nearly $2,000 more than the standard model, and diesel engines that meet the U.S.’s tough air regulations can cost as much as $5,000 more than their gasoline equivalents. To find success with the first American-made diesel car of the 21st century, Chevy will have to deliver enough MPG at a low enough extra cost.