GM unveils new diesel
GM says its new diesel will be available in light trucks like pickups and SUVs after 2009, offering fuel savings now only available in heavy-duty models.

NEW YORK ( -- General Motors Corp. will introduce a new V-8 turbo-diesel for its light trucks such as pickups and SUVs after 2009.

The company has offered diesel engines on its larger heavy- and medium-duty pickups, as well as on its commercial vehicles, which have different emission rules than the better-selling light-duty trucks.


But GM (Charts) announced the new engine will meet new stringent emission standards that will require them to be almost as clean as a gasoline engine and about 90 percent cleaner than today's diesels.

It will also be 25 percent more fuel efficient than a comparable gasoline engine. Sales of larger pickups and SUVs have been hurt by persistently high gasoline prices over the past year.

"This new GM light duty diesel is expected to become a favorite among customers who require excellent towing ability and fuel efficiency," according to a statement from Tom Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain.

While higher gasoline prices have led to more than half the vehicles sold in Europe being powered by the more fuel-efficient diesel engines, Americans have been slow to embrace the technology. Less than 1 percent of the 17 million cars and light trucks sold in the United States use diesel.

But full-size pickups and SUVs are a large part of the U.S. vehicle market, accounting for about 3 million sales in 2005. Having a diesel offering for the more popular pickups and SUVs, rather than just the heavy-duty models, could give GM a competitive edge and force its competitors to respond with their own offerings.

If diesel could make significant inroads into that segment, it could produce significant fuel savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 30 percent penetration of diesel technology in the U.S. passenger vehicle market by 2020 would reduce net crude oil imports by 350,000 barrels per day.

But the United States has tougher environmental standards on diesel emissions. Diesel is a less refined fuel than gasoline that burns more completely in the engine, thus more efficiently. But it current diesel engines also produce more pollution particles that have been difficult to trap.

New cleaner diesel fuel is now reaching U.S. pumps, and new regulations take effect in 2007. In addition, five states, including California and New York, have even tougher state emission regulations, and most automakers have been reluctant to introduce vehicles that are locked out of a significant portion of the U.S. market.

Still more stringent regulations are due to take effect nationwide in 2010. GM says its new offering will meet even those tougher standards.

DaimlerChrysler (Charts) is the only other automaker to offer diesel engines in cars and light trucks for the U.S. market that will meet tighter environmental regulations taking effect here in 2007.

In June Daimler announced that a diesel 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee would be available early next year, and it had previously publicized diesel offerings for its luxury Mercedes brand. Ford Motor (Charts) has limited its diesel offerings to its super-duty pickups to date.

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