Automakers struggle to bring affordable diesel cars to US market – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Friday, October 30, 2015

In hindsight, it’s clear how Volkswagen, in the 2009 model year, seemed to have nailed the elusive formula for affordable, sporty diesel cars — when none of its competitors could crack the code.

At the time, U.S. regulators had been tightening pollution controls on diesels and diesel fuel for years, culminating with the demand to cut smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions 90% by 2010.

Other automakers, including Honda and Nissan, had tried and failed to pull off what regulators now know that VW accomplished only by cheating — an affordable and fun-to-drive car, with fuel mileage rivaling that of hybrids. The automaker passed U.S. emissions tests with illegal software.

The difficulty and expense in producing a legitimate “clean diesel” raises the question of whether the technology is viable at all for affordable cars.

Currently, only Chevrolet offers a relatively inexpensive alternative to VW’s now-disgraced diesels. And the brand’s Cruze starts at a not-so-cheap $25,660 — a big premium over the gasoline version of the same small sedan. Its sales are a tiny fraction of those of its gasoline-powered counterpart.

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