Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth says that the automaker will continue to promote modern diesel technology, citing its widespread use in commercial vehicles as one of several factors in consideration.
Additionally, Speth says “The latest diesel technology is really such a step in emissions, performance, particulates; it’s better for the environment when compared to [an equivalent] petrol. Diesel has to -- needs to -- have a future.”
If you are a fan of diesel engines in North America, you’ve probably had the feeling that the auto industry here just “isn’t that into you.” There is a long-held belief that automakers don’t bring diesel vehicles to market here in large numbers, because they just aren’t popular, or any one of a number of reasons. There is a folklore of failed attempts to introduce diesel vehicles here, for example the early Olds V8 diesels, and an overall impression that the oil burners are dirty, smelly, and noisy, and will rattle the fillings right out of your teeth. You can’t even buy diesel on some stretches of toll roads in the US, where the state-controlled service areas don’t even offer it for sale.
The negative perception of the US market for SUV and passenger car diesel engines kept Land Rover from selling them in this country for decades, despite the success of the 200 and 300tdi, Td5, and Puma engines used in Discoveries and Defenders for other markets since the early 90’s. Instead, North American Land Rover owners were stuck with the old Rover V8, which was known for neither superb durability nor power, and rarely delivered anything much over 15 mpg for most users.
Some manufacturers continued to sell diesel cars in the US, most notably Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes. Despite a dedicated cult following, it seemed the automakers just weren’t interested in marketing the practicality, simplicity, and efficiency of compression ignition engines to the American public, thinking, most likely somewhat accurately, that big V8’s, macho imagery, flag-waving, and maybe a federal bailout or two was a surefire recipe for success instead.
In 2008, with gasoline prices rising over $4.00 per gallon in many areas, diesels seemed to be making a comeback. While the new, computer controlled and emission-restricted offerings may not have delivered the same staggering economy numbers of past, simpler models, the “news” of diesels’ economy started to spread and the number of diesel offerings increased, with new entries from Chevy, Jeep, Nissan, and even Porsche, among others.
Even Land Rover announced a diesel for North America starting with the 2016 model year on select vehicles, including the latest 2017 Discovery, and so far, the marque has managed to avoid the much-publicized (overblown in my opinion) Volkswagen emissions controversy. In fact, according to UK publication “Autocar,” Land Rover are “doubling down” on their bet made when they decided to bring diesels back to the States. They are committed to the technology, and continue to refine their diesels, while other vehicle makers focus more heavily on electric vehicles.
Speth also draws a distinction between the latest modern diesels and those that utilize older technology. The newer engines run much cleaner, though it will still be difficult to overcome the negative press surrounding the VW emissions scandal.
Says Speth, "Manipulation software is not acceptable. Unfortunately, the whole automotive industry suffers, not just Volkswagen."
The CEO is just as keen to jump on the electric bandwagon as many others are, given his previously stated mission to push Britain to the forefront of electric vehicle production. However, he also believes that the road to full electric is paved with improvements in diesel fuel economy.
"The future is pure battery electric vehicles. No other technology will bring that freedom,” he said.
The CEO's comments come at a delicate time for diesel models in the U.S. and overseas, due to the VW scandal, and subsequent scrutiny of other brands by various regulatory bodies Now even Mercedes Benz and Fiat Chrysler are getting a hard look, and numerous investigations are being launched. According to Autocar, the crisis hasn’t much affected the sales of diesel models in Europe.
With the current US administration the affect on the marketability of diesels remains to be seen. It all depends on whether U.S. regulators will share Jaguar Land Rover's enthusiasm for diesels going forward; until the Trump administration signaled its intention to relax fuel economy and emissions standards, prospects for diesel in the U.S. looked limited at best.
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