GM to Europe: Don’t Be so Down on Diesel

Even though General Motors gleefully offloaded its European division to the French, it still maintains a slight presence in the region. A powertrain engineering center in Turin, Italy remains in the GM fold, which gave the automaker an opportunity to dish on a much-maligned propulsion source: diesel fuel.

Hey, this stuff’s still useful, the automaker’s CEO of global diesel development, Pierpaolo Antonioli, told an uncertain European crowd this week.

Sure, Volkswagen opened regulators’ (and the public’s) eyes to emissions manipulations and the real-world impact of widespread diesel use, but that doesn’t mean high-torque compression ignition engines should hit the trash, Antonioli said.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Antonioli said new technology could turn everyone’s frown upside down. Fewer emissions for the environmentalists, efficiency for consumers, and long ranges and pulling power for automakers.

“Internal combustion engines, including the diesel, can still play a role for the next years to come,” the executive said, even as European cities prepare to outlaw diesel engines in certain areas (with full internal combustion bans looming beyond the horizon). Germany’s already given the green light to cities to ban diesel vehicles with impunity.

“Bosch said just a few weeks ago that they can already achieve very low emissions, especially from NOx, without increasing the cost of the combustion system,” he added.

Robert Bosch GmbH, which was implicated in the VW diesel affair, claims its technology could reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions — the key ingredient in smog — to just one-tenth of the levels permitted under Europe’s ultra-stringent Euro 6 standard. It can do it, Bosch says, without too much extraneous hardware. No production vehicle currently carries Bosch’s new system.

Even as diesel’s European popularity falls faster than a close talker at an office party, GM sees niche roles for the technology in its American offerings — roles, at least in the truck space, that aren’t likely to change anytime soon. The diesel Chevrolet Cruze remains on the market, as does sparkless variants of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain (not to mention the Duramax-powered Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon). The automaker’s revamped full-size pickups, which appear on dealer lots this year, will come with the option of a 3.0-liter inline-six diesel produced in Flint, Michigan.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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