The Axis of Diesel

Mercedes, GM and even Honda, are betting on a new breed of green diesels. The goal? To leave hybrids in the dust.

Published: 06-Oct-2006

As night fell over the 24 Hours of LeMans this summer, spectators at France's prestigious endurance race detected a pattern. While competitors entered the pits to refuel, a sleek pair of Audi R10s kept stealing laps around the 13.7-kilometer track. Already the fastest cars on the course, and eerily quiet thanks to a unique emissions filter, the Audis were also proving the most fuel-efficient. When the checkered flag flew, the Audi had made history as the first diesel car to win a major international race.

Diesel isn't just changing LeMans. Thanks to technological breakthroughs, at least six automakers - starting with Mercedes on Oct. 16, Jeep in early 2007, and eventually even hybrid pioneer Honda - will be launching a fleet of New Age diesels. They promise to boost fuel economy by 25% to 40%, with huge torque and turbochargers to deliver the power American drivers crave.

Though initial models won't pass air-quality standards in five states (California and New York among them), Mercedes has announced three 2008 SUVs that will achieve 50-state standards. Honda (Charts), VW, and GM (Charts) are close behind. How big is the market? J.D. Power estimates that diesel sales will triple to 9% of the U.S. market by 2013, compared with a projected hybrid share of 5%.


Technology allows diesels to meet toughest upcoming emissions rules; automakers' hybrid alliances show lack of belief in gas-electric future.

Mercedes-Benz confirmed that it will introduce five diesel models beginning this fall. Honda, BMW, Nissan and the Chrysler group each confirmed plans to add diesels to their lineups over the next three to four years. Photo: Mercedes E-320 BlueTec diesel.

With over seven million of its world-famous HDi diesel engines under its belt, PSA-Peugeot-Citroen is considered the foremost authority on diesel technology,


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