GM Betting Diesel Vehicles Will Win Over Former Volkswagen Customers

General Motors will be offering 10 Chevrolet and GMC vehicles by 2018 with diesel engines as it seeks to fill a gap left vacated by VW’s emissions cheating scandal.

Meeting increasing federal fuel economy and emissions standards has also motivated GM to stay in the diesel engine category. The company sold 757,000 diesel vehicles worldwide last year and expects that the new 2017 Cruze Diesel should do well.

Another upcoming model will be a diesel version of the 2018 Chevy Equinox compact sport utility vehicle.

GM expects that the Cruze Diesel’s new Ecotec 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine with an EPA mileage estimate of 52 mpg highway will be a “wow” factor for consumers, said Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems. That offers car shoppers the highest highway fuel economy of any non-hybrid or non-electric vehicle, he said.

Diesel sales last year in the U.S. totaled about 137,000, according to Hybridcars.com, representing just a fraction of overall industry sales of 17.55 million. GM is confident that the potential for strong sales exists even in the “Dieselgate” era.

“The outlook for diesel in the U.S.A. is actually promising,” Nicholson said. “We definitely see certain segments reaching 10 percent penetration and yes, an upside potential of 10 percent overall.”

Nicholson said about 9 percent of midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups sold are diesels.

“If we hit that number on Cruze, we’d be delighted,” he said. “We’d be happy with a lower number than that. We need to test the market and see where things are going.”

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For the 2018 model year, GM will roll out the Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs. The automaker also offers diesel versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty trucks and Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna full-size vans.

GM thinks that adding a manual transmission to the 2017 Chevy Cruze Diesel will help increase sales. Mike Siegrist, assistant chief engineer for the Cruze Diesel engine, said that another improvement has been adding the new 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine, which replaces a 2-liter diesel and is more efficient and quieter.

GM bets that there’s enough demand for the manual transmission option to charge more for it. The 2017 Cruze Diesel sedan is priced beginning at $24,670 with a manual transmission — a $2,800 premium over a similarly equipped gasoline version, Nicholson said. A 9-speed automatic transmission also is available for the Cruze Diesel.

The company said that a Cruze Diesel Hatch will be available later this year as a 2018 model.

The Detroit News


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