U.S. market for diesel cars could grow

Jeep vehicles are offered for sale at Napleton's Chrysler dealership on December 1, 2011 in Chicago, Ill. A U.S. plant will bring in new workers to produce a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Chrysler announced plans to add 1,100 new jobs 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 moves to diesel.

From the Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.

Eve Troeh: Diesel engines all but disappeared from the U.S. car market in the 1980s. Diesels ran loud, and smelly, black smoke puffed from of their tailpipes. But they did get better gas mileage. And as Europe levied fuel taxes, diesel cars stuck around across the pond.

And got more popular, says Daniel O'Connell with investment firm Redmayne-Bentley.

Daniel O'Connell: So it's kind of seeped into the public consciousness that diesel's a far more economic car.

European automakers have cleaned up and quieted diesel engines, and boosted mileage even more.

Ray Wert edits the car blog Jalopnik.com. He says all the U.S. car companies are eyeing diesel as low-hanging fruit to meet new fuel efficiency laws. Developing new hybrid or electric technology would cost more.

Ray Wert: They're wagering that gas prices are going to increase, and therefore the opportunity to be able to get 50, 60 miles in a small car is going to more than make up for the perception issue that diesel engines face.

And make up for the extra upfront cost. Diesel engines are more expensive to make than gas-powered, and diesel currently costs more at the pump, too.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

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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