General Motors revealed its 2014 model Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel on Thursday at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. And it has high hopes for the new vehicle.
The Detroit-based automaker isn't just hoping to carve out a little niche for itself in the diesel market, it's gunning for the top, with the highly popular Volkswagen in is sights.
"We expect the Cruze to compete head-to-head with the German diesels, particularly the Volkswagen Jetta TDI," said Gary Altman, Chevrolet's small cars chief engineer, according to M Live. "In fact, we expect to beat the Jetta in terms of price (compared to same trim level), features, range, even horsepower and torque."
The Cruze will go on sale later this year, starting at just under $26,000, and features a 2.0 liter turbo-diesel engine that will turn out 148-horsepower, 258 lb-ft torque, and get drivers about 42 miles per gallon on a highway.
So far, GM has sold more than 2 million Cruze vehicles since it launched the line in 2010, but it's hoping to expand the diesel market in the United States as it tries to catch up to Volkswagen, who rakes in 20 percent of its total sales from diesel-powered cars.
Although Volkswagen is undoubtedly the leader in diesel sales in the U.S., it says that it's not worried about GM's ambitious plans in the market. In fact, the company welcomes more choices for the consumer.
"This is not a fixed slice of pie that gets divided by the same customers," said Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, to the Los Angeles Times. "This will grow the diesel segment, and that's good news for us."
The U.S. diesel market currently only makes up about 3 percent of all car sales across the country, but companies like GM, Audi, Mazda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen are hoping to raise that number significantly in the coming years. Typically, American buyers have steered away from diesel because of relatively cheap gasoline prices (compared to other countries around the world), but the fact that they tend to get better mileage long term has customers taking a second look.
It wasn't just cheap gasoline that kept the cars from taking off, though. Early diesel-powered automobiles suffered from production issues that made them smelly, slow, and noisy. Car companies are slowly trying to change that image by producing better cars, while also hoping that diesel cars help them keep up with the government's strict fuel regulations.