Diesels Coming to General Motors Lineup

by : Anthony Fontanelle

The General Motors Corp. plans to put diesel engines in Cadillac and Saturn cars in the United States by 2010.

GM confirmed that it will use the fuel-saving diesel engine on U.S. passenger cars, crossovers and light-duty trucks during a video blog by Vice Chairman Bob Lutz on the company's web site. GM sources said that the automaker will show a diesel engine at the Frankfurt auto show in September on an e-flex Opel Vectra. In GM's e-flex powertrain, a traditional engine such as a diesel or gasoline engine, recharges a battery pack that provides power for an electric motor.

In January, the Detroit automaker will show the same variant at the Detroit auto show on a Saturn, most likely the Aura sedan. GM showed off the e-flex system on the Chevrolet Volt concept car at the Detroit auto show this year.

"It'll end up in a Cadillac, and there will be a front-wheel-drive version of the engine in 2009 or 2010 calendar year," said a source familiar with the program. "It's an Epsilon (mid-sized car) based product." The source added the diesel will go in the Vectra in 2008 and will come to the United States as a Saturn for the next generation Aura if all goes as planned.

Lutz cautioned that the diesel engine is not a panacea for upcoming stiffer corporate average fuel economy standards. "There's a lot of hype on diesels right now. It's not going to be a 50-state solution. It's going to be minus California and minus what other states adopt California standards," said Lutz.

But the head honcho said that GM is charging ahead with diesels and that it will be one way the company will boost fuel economy. "We're doing a bunch of them right now. We will be introducing diesel passenger cars in the U.S. We are going to have a V-6 diesel engine for passenger cars, crossovers and light trucks."

A spokesman for GM confirmed what Lutz said in his video blog, saying that diesels are in GM's European products because European regulations are more receptive to diesels. "Getting those engines to be compliant in the U.S. is a matter of cost and emissions compliance," said Chris Preuss, GM spokesman. "How we can market those in the U.S. is still a question, but we still see diesel having some limited role in the U.S. in the next couple of years."

Lutz said that the largest American automaker is working on a diesel-electric hybrid platform and it just may be showcased in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show. In a video blog, Lutz confirmed the Detroit automaker would use clean diesel engines in passenger cars, sport utility vehicles and other light-duty trucks.

He noted, however, that emissions hardware and control systems needed to meet the standards would add another $2,000 to $2,800 to the $1,000-$2,000 premium that already exists for diesels over gasoline-engine cars.

The automaker has at least two diesel engines under development. A 4.5-liter V8 is due in 2010 for light-duty pickups and sport utilities. The other engine is a 2.9-liter V6 being developed with Italy's VM Motori S.p.A. The V6 will be launched in Europe in the 2009 Cadillac CTS, which will later be introduced in the United States.

As gas prices continue to increase and more people become worried about the effects of global warming, automakers are starting to make alternative fuels a bit more of a priority. Auto parts like the , engines, filters, exhausts and the like are continuously enhanced to evolve with the modern demands. GM is blending with the changes by taking a somewhat different approach.