Pundits and pikers, here’s your chance to put up or shut up. You see, there’s going to be a new Domestic car with a diesel engine for the first time in a generation, and it’s a compact, to boot. The Chevrolet Cruze diesel has been rumored for a while. and our Deep Throat inside General Motors has confirmed that it’s indeed coming to North America in mid-2012 as a 2013 model.
Most of the pieces are already in place; the Cruze is available with a diesel in other markets, and the car itself is on sale here in the States. The biggest draw for a small car with a diesel engine, besides the hefty torque wallop modern diesel fours pack, is the fuel economy gain. That’s going to be a hard sell for a diesel Cruze on a couple levels.
The Cruze LUZ, as the diesel version is rumored to be called, is essentially the Cruze 2.0 VCDi that Car drove in 2009. That car returned 42 miles per gallon (NOT Imperial gallons, that figure is 50.4 miles per Imperial gallon, so kiss it, pedants) and cost $25,000. That’s an expensive car that doesn’t do any better than a 2011 Cruze Eco. Hope the EPA estimates are better than Car’s observed figures. North American market pricing hasn’t been set, but since diesel engines cost GM more, you can bet they’ll cost you more. There’s not really any way around this, as the diesel is going to need a particulate trap and some kind of exhaust aftertreatment solution to squeak by US emissions standards. Kaching.
A key to successfully selling a diesel Cruze is the mercurial price of gasoline. According to the United States Energy Information Administration’s February 8, 2011 Short-Term Energy Outlook, the price of regular gasoline is expected to hover around a national average of $3.15 per gallon for 2011 and jump to $3.30 in 2012. That’s higher than 2010’s average, but the gradual creep up to that level may not be painful enough to drive people to seek an alternative. Of course, fuel prices will be higher in some regions of the country, and those areas may be the places where the Cruze LUZ sells best. There’s a good chance that the national average fuel price could top $3.50 per gallon during summer 2011, but it’s much less likely to surpass a $4.00 per gallon national average price. Oh, and the average price of diesel fuel is expected to virtually mirror the numbers for gasoline. Hmm.
There will be reasons that the Cruze LUZ is appealing. Strong torque, for example, is something just about everyone loves, and the car itself is a handsome entrant. Buyers have gotten over the fear of premium small cars, Mini, for example, sells tiny cars with ambitious price tags, but Chevrolet isn’t Mini. So, the internet gets a car it’s been caterwauling for, and the question is whether or not consumers will react with dollars.