by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road, February 8 2013
General Motors is jumping back into the diesel car market. Well, maybe jumping is not exactly the right word. Perhaps “carefully slipping back into the deep end of the pool” is a better metaphor to describe the automakers newest effort.
As unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show this week, GM will offer a diesel version of its Chevrolet Cruze compact car in North America, marking the largest U.S. automaker’s first attempt in nearly three decades to test a growing market now dominated by German automakers.
The 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, which goes on sale this summer, competes in a segment that could account for 7.7 percent of the U.S. auto market by 2018, up from 3.1 percent in 2012, according to LMC Automotive.
GM engineers built upon an existing diesel engine already offered in Europe to meet stringent emission standards in the US market.
“It will change perceptions of what a diesel car can be while giving customers another fuel-efficient choice in the Cruze lineup,” said Mike Siegrist, one of the main engineers on the diesel Cruze project.
These vehicles are also dogged by a reputation for producing more pollution than gasoline-powered cars. They GM diesel-powered cars laswt produced for the U.S. market in 1986 were also just plain “dogs”. Many consumers complained of sluggishness and unreliability. I can say from experience that a diesel in the 1980’s was not a fun car top own or operate.
So I asked GM’s Siegrist “How do you engineer that “fun 2 drive” factor into a car?”
Siegrist’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm at such a question.
“Torque”, he responded without hesitation. “Torque, and matching the right amount of horsepower to the right drive train.” He was all smiles.
“I have driven this [Chevy Cruze], and it really is fun to drive”. I believe him.
General Motors will be moving slowly yet deliberately into the market, according to Christi Landy, small car marketing director for Chevrolet.
Landy says GM expects the car to be popular with families that already have a GM diesel-powered pickup truck in the house, those who know and appreciate the benefits of diesels.
She also went on to tell me she agrees with Siegrist. “We’re going to describe the vehicle as having great performance,” Landy says. “Once you test drive it, there is no question that there is a tremendous difference.”
Built at the Lordstown, Ohio, plant, the new Cruze will get what GM called a “best-in-segment” 42 mpg on the highway and produce an estimated 258 lb.-ft. of torque, sprinting from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds behind its 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower engine.
The car will be made in the U.S., but the engine will come from Germany.
Also unveiled by Chevy at the same press conference was the new Malibu, a well regarded product and also “really fun to drive”, GM’s Christi Landy adds.
About Douglas Black
Douglas Black is a photojournalist and
green technologies analyst out of Chicago,
and is currently Managing Producer for
Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as
Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.
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