Will Chevy win over VW TDI buyers with a diesel Cruze?

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1.6-liter ‘whipser diesel’ sedan expected in 2017

Chevrolet will go after Volkswagen Diesel’s customers.

“There are a lot of diesel intenders and diesel-loyal people who are looking for a brand and vehicles to go after,” said Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president for global propulsion systems.

“They tend to be more tech savvy than the average customer. And they won’t stop wishing for a diesel. And we’ll go after those customers,” he said on the sidelines of the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

Chevrolet, Nicholson said, will follow through with its plan to launch a new diesel engine in the Chevrolet Cruze. The car is expected to arrive in 2017 and feature a 1.6-liter diesel that is so quiet engineers call it “whisper diesel.”

Nicholson said he believes the U.S. market for diesel-powered cars and light trucks is still viable, despite Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal. “I think the U.S. is one of the few diesel growth markets on the planet,” he said.

“I am very optimistic about the diesel market in the U.S. It has been abandoned by others and we are happy to step in and be the leader. Frankly that’s what we’d like to do,” he said. 

GM, Nicholson said, is seeing strong demand for the diesel-powered Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. “We’re selling every one we can make and our sales targets are on track,” he said.

Last month, Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told Automotive News that VW won’t relaunch “clean diesels” as a core element of its brand identity in the U.S., where VW dominated diesel passenger car sales before being consumed by its nearly yearlong emissions-cheating scandal. He said VW would use diesels where they make sense until at least 2019, but then toughening emissions standards would make the fuel-efficient engine extremely difficult to certify for U.S. sale.

Volkswagen halted sales of diesel-powered vehicles last fall after regulators discovered VW used a defeat device to turn off emissions systems during testing. Parent company Volkswagen AG now has set aside nearly $20 billion to pay for legal settlements, fines and vehicle buybacks stemming from the scandal. Criminal investigations are ongoing in the U.S. and Germany.

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