General Motors Believes Diesel Lovers Haven’t Stopped Loving Diesels

General Motors’ diesel-powered midsize pickup trucks are the only midsize pickup trucks available in America with diesel engines. GM’s Chevrolet Cruze is the only compact car on sale in America with a diesel engine. Although the Mazda CX-5 is scheduled to arrive later this year, diesel-powered editions of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain will be the first small utility vehicles with diesel options.

With all the negative diesel press earned largely by the eruption of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in September 2015, is GM’s investment in America’s diesel market a complete and utter waste?

GM obviously thinks not. “I don’t think diesel customers forgot why they liked driving diesels in the last two years,” GM’s vice president for global propulsion systems, Dan Nicholson, tells Automobile. “They didn’t forget about the driving character or the fuel economy.”

Moreover, Nicholson says of the tens of thousands of former Volkswagen TDI owners, “We don’t think those customers went away.”

It could be easily argued that GM is providing U.S. customers with a better diesel product than Volkswagen. The 1.6-liter turbocharged diesel in the Cruze produces 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque — roughly on par with the 150 horsepower; 236 lb-ft 2.0-liter diesel from the last Jetta TDI — but is rated as high as 30 mpg city; 52 mpg highway. The last Jetta TDI available in America offered similar city mileage but didn’t climb higher than 44 mpg on the highway.

Besides, Volkswagen’s diesel was cheating its way around emissions standards. GM’s Nicholson says, “We’re committed to compliance of the standards,” claiming hand-in-hand cooperation with the EPA “throughout the whole process to be very transparent with what technologies that we have and how the vehicles perform on the required tests so that it’s really understood.”GM’s hopes for consumer faith rest not on GM — known to weasel its way around standards in the past — but on the actual diesel format. “The technology itself was not the problem,” Nicholson says. Cheating was the problem.

Nicholson says the broader diesel array GM is now supplying in the U.S. is simply a decision to enhance choice. “If you’re driving a lot of miles per year, it’s mostly highway, you want to go on extended trips, and you live in say an area like Wyoming,” Nicholson explains, “then you might not be a Bolt customer.”

According to HybridCars.com, fewer than 500 copies of the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel were sold in the first seven months of 2017, just 0.4 percent of the Cruze’s overall total. GM expects more diesel buyers to appear when the engine is offered in the hatchback.

Meanwhile, 7,192 Colorado and Canyon buyers have opted for the 2.8-liter diesel, or 9 percent of the trucks’ total. Chevrolet expects the Equinox’s diesel engine to be selected 5 percent of the time for roughly 1,100-1,200 monthly sales.

[Images: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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