Perhaps emboldened by the fact that its Cruze nameplate is Chevrolet’s global best seller, and hoping to create anticipation for a 2013 diesel variant co-developed in Europe for the U.S., GM is putting German automakers on notice.
“The market for diesel cars in the U.S. is small at present, but is expected to grow due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements and expected increases in gas prices,” said Mike Omotoso, powertrain analyst at LMC Automotive. “So far, the German automakers haven’t had any diesel car competition in North America. GM could do well with it, particularly with younger buyers who don’t have the old prejudices against diesel.”
This statement about a small market is quite true. In 2011, clean diesels comprised not quite 0.8 percent of the U.S. passenger vehicle pie – 101,624 clean diesels out of a total of 12,734,356 passenger vehicles. It may be early to determine how the Cruze will measure up as an overall value proposition against the top-selling Jetta TDI, but GM said it will make sure the already successful Cruze is a contender.
Since its launch in 2009, over one million Cruzes have been sold worldwide. In the U.S., 231,732 were sold in 2011. And of the already existing European market diesel, the company reported around 33,000 were sold.
Preparing for homologation and consumer acceptance in America, GM said its powertrain engineers have an open line of communication between the project leaders in Turin, Italy and colleagues in Pontiac Mich. These engineers are refining “a world-class engine that delivers outstanding fuel efficiency and torque while providing a smooth, quiet ride,” GM said.
Collaboration is also happening with GM engineers in Russelsheim, Germany who are developing the accessory drive, acoustic cover and other specialized components.
GM said it has recently invested $26.5 million in five dynamic benches in Turin to refine its vehicles’ noise and vibration and chassis dynamometer testing.
“U.S. customers are going to be pleasantly surprised when they get a chance to drive the Chevrolet Cruze diesel,” said Mike Siegrist, 2.0L diesel assistant chief engineer. “Our global team is providing diesel engineering expertise that will give U.S. Cruze customers great quality, torque and fuel economy in a car that’s both fun to drive and practical at the pump.”
As part of normal testing, GM said it is beating on Cruze diesel test mules in temperatures ranging between -40 deg. F, and 158 deg, F, and up to altitudes of 10,000 feet.
“We’re able to put the diesel engines through rigorous testing to ensure they operate optimally under a wide range of conditions and also can be integrated seamlessly into the production vehicle,” said Pierpaolo Antonioli, managing director of the Turin Powertrain and Engineering Center. “We’ve pushed these engines in the labs so that the customer can depend on them in real-world driving situations.”
Outwardly, the 2013 Cruze diesels will not be noticeably different from gasoline variants. And if anyone ever perceived drawbacks with diesels, GM said direct injection technology will yield excellent drivability. Emissions also will be at an all-time-low due to particulate-capturing filtration systems.
Last year, VW sold 51,530 Jetta diesels in this small but predicted-to-grow segment, so we shall see how the Cruze breaks into the clean diesel market in GM’s own back yard with competition tweaked in VW’s European back yard.