Green Update: Cruze Diesel—Will It Be a Hit in the U.S.?

July 12th, 2011

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

After almost a year of rumors, the Detroit News reports that General Motors will introduce the 2-liter Cruze diesel in 2013. Though GM has so far declined to comment, this is a big deal, for a number of reasons.

Volkswagen TDIs have been in short supply for Golf and Jetta models, and the market for them is clearly growing. GM wants to follow the path VW has pioneered. Diesel-powered Cruze cars have successfully sold elsewhere—in Europe and Australia, for instance, for some years.

The car should get around 50 mpg (combined), which puts it in the Prius class for fuel economy.

The decision to offer a diesel makes particular sense in that the Cruze has now topped the June charts as the best-selling car in the U.S., beating out the Camry and Civic, which have topped the lists for years.

In overall ranking, the Cruze beat out cars like the Chevy Malibu, Ford Escape and Focus, and slotted in behind the always-on-top trucks, like the F-Series and Silverado.

Holden Cruze CDX diesel engine

The diesel will almost certainly be some version of the 2-liter turbodiesel GM makes for the European and Australian markets: 148 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, similar to the figures for VW’s TDI.

The variables for GM will be:

  • the price of gas, and the price of gas vs. diesel in 2013
  • the extra cost of the diesel engine
  • whether the U.S. versions will require extra emissions controls, like urea injection
  • and, of course, buyer acceptance.

I think the company is betting on a rather small market share for diesel, at least at first, but with the potential for steady growth.

Can diesel in a popular car like the Cruze ever win a substantial segment of U.S. market share? Why, or why not?

—jgoods

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  1. panayoti
    | #1

    Probably not. I’ve really looked into this issue since I”m going to seriously look at the new ’12 Passat with the TDI diesel engine. To compare the diesel and non diesel options, I used the ’11 Jetta as my guide. There is almost a $5K difference between the TDI model and the gas powered SE 5 cylinder gas version. Depending on the options chosen, that price difference could shrink or grow. Using the Fuel Economy site I find that there is a $265 annual difference to be gained by the diesel engine over the gas engine in the course of 15,000 miles. For the fuel conscious, that’s about $22/mo.

    So depending on how you option out the cheaper non diesel model one has to ask if it is worth $5K to buy the diesel to save $265 per year. It would take close to 20 years to get your money back by buying the more fuel efficient diesel. Much like the hybrid arguments we had years ago it’s a matter of simple math. Prius owners finally figured this out over the last few years. The cost penalty is just too great to overcome the environmental altruism owners might have.

    The new 2012 Subaru Impreza appears to get pretty close to the numbers achieved by the Jetta and they do so WITHOUT

  2. panayoti
    | #2

    OOOOPS!!

    the benefit of a diesel engine. So for the Cruze to increase its market share by offering a diesel seems like a risky more to me. Maybe I’ll be looking at a Legacy instead of a Passat.

  3. | #3

    The diesel models usually perform the best that might sway some buyers

  4. Jim Redd
    | #4

    I hope the Cruze diesel doesn’t come with a $5K premium. $2K I could see. I think it could succeed here, but it all depends on the price.

  5. Randy
    | #5

    I think once people drive them they might sell. Diesels drive differently than gas cars, and in small cars especially, the low RPM torque makes the car surprisingly peppy and drivable, especially in city driving, while maintaining good mileage. Get rid of the smell and noise and keep the price competitive and you’ve got a winner.

  1. | #1
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