Diesel car market poised to grow in 2012

A driver fills his car with diesel in the constituency of Britain's Chancellor George Osbourne on March 23, 2011 in the United Kingdom. Diesel could soon become much more popular in the United States.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Speaking of the economy adding jobs -- Chrysler announced plans to add 1,100 of them at its assembly plant in Detroit. The new workers will build a diesel version of the Jeep Cherokee. It's the latest of many U.S. automaker announcements for diesel cars and trucks.

From the Sustainability Desk, Marketplace's Eve Troeh is here with us live to tell us more. Good morning, Eve.

Eve Troeh: Good morning.

Smith: So, Eve which cars are going diesel, and when will we see them on the market?

Troeh: Well, the Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel has been sold in Europe for years, but we'll see the U.S. model next year or 2014. Chevy's making doing a diesel version of the Cruze for the U.S. -- it'll come out next year. Ford has a new Focus ECOnetic Diesel -- that's for Europe. But really, all the U.S. automakers are pursuing a diesel strategy.

That's what Ray Wert told me this morning. He's the editor-in-chief of the car blog Jalopnik.com.

Ray Wert: There's a need on every automaker's part to hit the new fuel economy regulations. And an easy way to do that is to start offering diesel power trains. They're more efficient, they're quiet, they're quick to start, and they're durable.

He says they're 33 percent more fuel efficient, on average -- and we're talking 50 to 60 miles per gallon.

Smtih: Wow. Well, if diesel engines are better, why haven't we seen more of them in the U.S.?

Troeh: Diesel got a bad rap in the U.S. a few decades ago. It was thought to be dirty and loud and smelly, so gas engines just really just took over the market. And also, gas got a lot cheaper here with subsidies. Diesel engines are also more expensive to make, so it just hasn't been worth the cost premium for U.S. consumers.

But the European automakers have stuck with diesel engines. They've really tweaked them into these high-performing models because they do want that better mileage -- gas is more expensive over there because of taxes.
But now the U.S. automakers have to get better mileage on all their vehicles by law, so they're building new hybrids or electrics. But that's going to be more expensive than adopting this diesel technology; that's already ripe for the picking.

Smtih: Marketplace's Eve Troeh with us here in Los Angeles. Thank you Eve.

Troeh: Thank you.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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