How Much Myth-Busting Will The Chevy Cruze Diesel Need?

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Smart driving with the Chevrolet Cruze

Smart driving with the Chevrolet Cruze

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Europeans love diesel cars. For them, diesels are robust, get great gas mileage, and in some places, cost less to run. 

Traditionally, Americans distrust diesel passenger cars. With the exception of the few percent of car buyers who drive around in oil-burning cars from companies like Volkswagen, Audi and BMW, diesel cars are treated with suspicion. 

So when reported that General Motors is preparing a myth-busting campaign to educate Americans about modern diesel engines ahead of the launch of its 2014 Chevy Cruze Diesel, we had to wonder. 

How difficult will it be for GM to convince people unfamiliar with modern diesel engines to make a switch from gasoline to diesel?

Our conclusion? It could be as tough as convincing most Americans to switch to plug-in or hybrid cars.  

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 VCDi turbodiesel (Europe)

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Here’s why. 

For the majority of U.S. car buyers, diesel engines are the loud, powerful, unrefined, smelly engines that power large pickup trucks and agricultural machinery. 

It might not be true for modern diesels, but these opinions have been formed over the past few decades, a period of time in which no U.S. automaker has produced a diesel-powered car. 

During that time, diesels from automakers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have been available for sale -- but most Americans won’t have encountered them.

That’s because most diesel cars are currently sold in the Pacific Northwest and California, in areas known for tough emissions laws and green transport policies. 

Moreover, the Chevy Cruze isn’t a car in the same segment as its fellow oil burners from Germany. 

In short, Cruze buyers won’t be cross-shopping against European cars.  They’re more likely to be cross-shopping against Ford, Chrysler and Toyota. 

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

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Nor will they be cross-shopping with the sexier diesel cars out there. 

Essentially then, GM will be dealing with customers who have never driven a modern diesel car before, and know nothing of the technology. 

Which means GM has to go back to basics, explaining everything from the top in order to wipe away every preconception about diesel engines. 

For GM, education about diesel engines is important, but that’s only second to an old-fashioned test-drive. 

Like its marketing campaign for the Chevy Volt, expect GM to aggressively market the Cruze Diesel with social media and a nationwide tour. 

Because, at the end of the day, the best myth-busting comes when you sit behind the wheel. 

Sometimes, it's easier to show than it is to tell. 


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Comments (14)
  1. What is the real value to the consumer or the environment? The diesel car and fuel both cost more, but the fuel efficiency is higher than a comparable gas car. Maybe the money is neutral at best.

    The amount of carbon in Diesel is more than gasoline, but Diesel efficiency is higher. So maybe the carbon is about the same.

    Why not just get a Prius C and save both the money and the environment?

  2. My 2000 Jetta averaged a combined 24mpg. My 2001 Jetta TDI (diesel) averages a combined 36mpg, a 50% increase. Diesel costs a bit less than 10% more than gas here in Seattle, so I'm still coming out way head on fuel costs. Plus a diesel engine is going to last a lot longer, when kept in good repair.

  3. You had to pay more for that 2001 diesel over the equivalent gas Jetta. The difference now is even more substantial since they had to make them cleaner. If the purchase cost were the same then more people would be swayed. I personally don't care - I drive electric and won't give cancer to anyone.

  4. " I drive electric and won't give cancer to anyone."

    Unless the electric generation mix in your region is coal-heavy...

  5. I disagree. 7.5 kWh of coal is used to generate one gallon of gas (probably less for diesel but it does have soot) and that's before extraction and delivery. The LEAF can cover 30 miles on that alone.

  6. There is a ftal flaw with both regular and plug in hybrids. at the end of the batteries service life the car is basicly worthless, because the cost of replacing the battery will exceed the value of the car. Unless a manufacturer can gauantee a flloor value hybrid's really make no financial sense,but will be an more a novelty. Diesel's have a long hiistory of longetivity which flattens the depriciation curve. Compare the price of a used TDI golf compared to the first generation prius of the same year to prove my point

  7. Hey John,

    The reason a diesel Cruze might win out over the Prius C for some buyers is for the driving experience. Diesels have relaxed high torque at low rpms and are fun to drive. CVT equipped Prii not so much though the Prius is certainly fast enough. I have not driven the Cruze or Prius C but I have owned a 2010 Golf TDI and currently own a 2005 Prius and the Golf was hands down much more fun to drive. Of course, diesel cost more and though both cars got similar mileage, the Prius was cheaper to drive. Now, I drive a Nissan Leaf which is more than three times cheaper to drive then either one with much lower noise.

  8. A base Cruze diesel is 10% cheaper than a base VW Jetta in the UK so following the same logic it will cost about 20k USD in the US some 4K cheaper than the prius. It will be cheap to lease as the residuals for Diesels are much stronger that petrol cars, so expect parity of lease costs against a cheaper lower spec petrol version.

    So if you are going to use it for a long commute where the economy of the Cruze will certainly better the prius it starts to make sense.

    I really don't know what the drama is all about diesel cars are not really any different to petrol cars in day to day use just more economical and longer lasting.

    GM will sell bucket loads and will surely wonder why the hell they didn't do this 5 years ago.

  9. Like the article said, there's a substantial difference in perception of diesel cars between the Europeans and the Americans. They will not sell a boatload here no matter what. The reason why they couldn't have done this 5 years ago is that euro-spec diesel (including the current Cruze one) is no good for the US. We (surprisingly) have now some of the cleanest diesel fuel in the world and the engines need to be more advanced and basically do and will cost a lot more in this market.

  10. As a former TDI owner, and a current Prius owner, the Cruze Diesel is the second GM car that I would consider owning voluntarily (but only a wagon variant).

    The other, of course, is the Volt.

    I will not own another Volkswagen again. Been there, done that, lost my t-shirt.

  11. Just remind everyone that they can fill up with diesel at the local Wal-Mart gas station (the green handle!) and that will go a long way in education the folks that diesel is easy. if we could just get the gov't to reduce diesel fuel taxes, which is one of the reasons why it costs more per gallon than gasoline. (source wikipedia)

  12. I own a 2006 TDI. It and I have been to both coasts, Toronto and Montreal. And to Florida. !80,000 mile with only one incident, a leaking water hose which a VW dealer in Chattanooga replaced on a Sunday when most places would not have even been open.

    If it is green or not I do not know. to know if a car is truly green you would have to track each and every part.
    Where was it made. What pollution was created during it's creation. How far did it have to be shipped to get to the factory and how much pollution was created during that trip. How far did the car have to be shipped to get to your dealer and the pollution that created.
    From the time a driver takes delivery of a car the pollution is now a matter of driving style.

  13. @Fred: According to M.A. Weiss et al., in a 2000 report from the MIT Energy Laboratory (On the Road in 2020: A Lifecycle Analysis of New Automotive Technologies), fully 75 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime carbon emissions come from the fuel it burns + another 19 percent from the production of that fuel.

    Extraction of the raw materials that make up the vehicle adds another 4 percent, and only 2 percent of lifetime carbon is due to the manufacturing and assembly process. Hybrids may be slightly higher in raw materials and assembly, due to their added battery pack and electric machinery, but the difference in overall lifetime carbon in making hybrids and conventional cars is negligible.

  14. Forget about overcoming myths. People are not that dumb and the smelly, noisy diesels were made in the 80's before many people driving today were even born.
    I would love to get a TDI wagon... but when I read stories about people having to fight VW over fuel pump failures or when I know people with problems with VWs, I am hesitant. If VW would give a longer warranty....
    Now... if you could purchase a diesel under an American or Japanese brand, I think that would make people more at ease.
    Mazda will introduce the beautiful new 6 as a diesel.... but OF COURSE they won't offer it as a wagon!!!

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