GM expands diesels in U.S. to meet fuel economy targets

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. is expanding its diesel lineup to 10 Chevrolet and GMC vehicles by the 2018 model year. It says the clean-diesel powertrains will help it meet carbon dioxide emissions levels and fuel economy requirements.

Automakers are pressed to meet federal fuel economy mandates that call for corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The Detroit automaker said it sold 757,000 diesel vehicles globally last year. It now is rolling out a new 2017 Cruze Diesel, which gives consumers another choice, said Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems.

The Cruze Diesel is powered by a new Ecotec 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine that has been estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 52 miles per gallon highway fuel economy with a manual transmission. That big number, which Nicholson called a “wow” factor and a reason for purchase, is the highest highway fuel economy of any nonhybrid or nonelectric vehicle. Mike Siegrist, assistant chief engineer for the Cruze Diesel engine, said customers may exceed the EPA highway figure.

GM and Chevrolet see an opportunity to win some Volkswagen AG diesel customers in the wake of the German automaker’s emissions cheating scandal.

“The outlook for diesel in the U.S.A. is actually promising,” Nicholson said. “We definitely see certain segments reaching 10 percent penetration and yes, an upside potential of 10 percent overall.”

Nicholson said about 9 percent of midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups are diesels. “If we hit that number on Cruze, we’d be delighted,” he said. “We’d be happy with a lower number than that. We need to test the market and see where things are going.”

Diesel sales last year in the U.S. totaled about 137,000, according to, representing just a fraction of overall industry sales of 17.55 million.

GM is introducing diesel versions of the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and 2018 GMC Terrain compact SUVs. It also offers diesel versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty trucks and Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna full-size vans.

With Chevy’s first Cruze Diesel — which sold just about 12,550 in the U.S. through 2016 over two model years — it did not offer a manual transmission, something GM thinks will help with sales this time around. The new engine for the Cruze Diesel, which replaces a 2-liter diesel, is more efficient and quieter than the one it replaces, Siegrist said.

The 2017 Cruze Diesel sedan, on sale now, is priced beginning at $24,670 with a manual transmission — a $2,800 premium over a similarly equipped gasoline version, Nicholson said. A 9-speed automatic transmission also is available. The Cruze Diesel Hatch will be available later this year as a 2018 model.

The diesel engine which powers the Cruze Diesel and will power the Equinox and Terrain diesels is made at a GM Opel plant in Hungary.

GM officials Thursday declined to comment on any engine impact for those vehicles amid the possible sale of GM’s Opel business to French-based PSA Group. The companies confirmed Tuesday they were in talks.

(313) 222-2319

Twitter: @MBurden_DN