Other than offering a diesel engine with its big pickup trucks, General Motors doesn’t have a line of diesel engines in place where some customers have wanted them for years: in their small cars. GM did introduce diesel engines to several of its large car lines in the 1980s only to recall and replace those defective engines with gasoline engines later on.
Since that debacle, GM has been building and selling diesel engines with success in Europe. The European market is highly dependent on diesel power as these cars typically average more than 30 percent better fuel economy than gas cars. And, with fuel costing more than $7 per gallon in some countries, diesels are a must have option for the European driver.
GM has yet to confirm it, but offering at least one diesel model in coming years makes sense.
First, federal fuel economy requirements will mandate a huge jump in fuel mileage by 2016, but GM has a lot of catching up to do if it is to meet the 35.5 fleetwide average coming down. Currently, GM’s fleet is averaging 24 miles to the gallon, but with the 40 mpg Cruze and the electric Volt hitting the market this year, those numbers will go up.
Second, diesel demand in the United States is pent up. Today’s drivers understand that the technology has improved considerably, making these engines cleaner and even more reliable than before. And, with no need to do tune-ups, they’re easier to maintain. Volkswagen has proven that consumers will flock to diesels if given the choice.
What models do I think will gain a diesel engine? That’s hard to say, although the Cruze would be a natural fit or even the smaller Aveo. However, giving the midsize Malibu a diesel option could help provide that sedan with a much needed edge in its segment. GM tried, and failed, to offer a hybrid Malibu, but a diesel option could prove wise.
Look for GM to consider a diesel option with its compact Equinox crossover too. That model has been a strong seller for GM and could benefit from that option. What better way to attract more customers than to present an option not widely available elsewhere.
We’ll know more about GM’s plans in the coming months with perhaps that news coming out when auto shows are held in Los Angles, Detroit, Chicago and New York later this year into early next spring. Diesel power, anyone?