Ford is considering installing a European-built diesel engine in cars and light trucks in the US, joining rivals like DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen in widening diesel use in the world's largest vehicle market, Bloomberg News
A 2.7-litre V6 engine Ford is introducing in Europe [soon including Jaguar models] may be installed later in Taurus cars or Explorer sport-utility vehicles in the US, Gerhard Schmidt, Ford's research and advanced engineering vice president, told Bloomberg News.
The vehicles would also compete with planned hybrid cars powered by electricity and gasoline, the report added.
"It would be a gamble, but so are hybrids, and diesels would be a hell of a lot cheaper to develop, almost free," Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Oregon, told Bloomberg News.
The news agency said that Ford and PSA Peugeot Citroen have spent a combined $1.08 billion developing four-cylinder diesel engines as their popularity has surged.
About 40 percent of new cars sold in Europe use diesel fuel compared with 22 percent in 1997 and that contrasts with 1 percent in the US last year, a figure DaimlerChrysler estimates may rise to 15 percent by 2007, the report added.
New high-pressure diesel engines use fuel more efficiently and provide better low-speed acceleration than gasoline engines, while they're also quieter than previous versions, car company executives told Bloomberg News.
Ford already sells F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks and Excursion vans in the US equipped with 6-litre and 7.3-litre diesel engines built by Navistar International, Bloomberg News
said that DaimlerChrysler will import a diesel version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan into the US, as well as a 2.8-liter diesel motor for the Jeep Liberty [Cherokee] sport-utility vehicle, beginning next year.
Volkswagen sells diesel-powered versions of its Beetle, Golf and Passat cars in the US and plans to add diesel Passat wagon and Touareg sport-utility vehicle models next year. The carmaker sold 33,000 diesel cars in the US last year, a 10th of its total sales in the country, Bloomberg News
"We could sell more," Stuart Johnson, manager of Volkswagen's US engineering and environmental office, told the news agency. "Diesel sales have been so big in Europe that Volkswagen could only allocate a few cars for the US."
Diesel engines being built for European cars can be adapted for use in US models at little extra cost, car company executives told Bloomberg News.
The news agency said diesel engines emit less carbon dioxide than petrol engines and provide 25 percent to 40 percent better fuel economy. At the same time, their nitrogen oxide and particle waste may breach US standards, which will remain more restrictive than EU regulations even after the region's rules are tightened in 2005.
"Diesels will have to be much cleaner in 2004 than they have to be this year," Dan Harrison, manager of the vehicles programme group at the US Environmental Protection Agency, told Bloomberg News.
Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler's diesel cars in the US are likely to meet the weakest nitrogen oxide requirement of 0.6 gram per mile, Harrison reportedly added.
Ford and Volkswagen both expect to meet the US's tighter 2007 requirements, Bloomberg News