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Japanese automaker says diesel cars already testing in North America
Mazda is examining whether or not to bring diesel powered cars to North America. Seita Kanai, the company’s R&D boss, recently told Automotive News that diesel Mazdas are already being tested in the U.S.
With certain emissions regulations standing in the way, the biggest holdup that Mazda faces is if it can make a concrete business case for the cars. “As an engineer, ideally I would want to introduce diesels, but I am not sure if it makes a business case,” said Kanai, commenting that the company would need to sell as many as 10,000 units to reach profitability. With strict emission regulations on the way, however, loss-making diesels may be a clever way for the automaker to meet CAFE standards and avoid government penalties.
Roughly a year ago Mazda announced that instead of going the hybrid route it was going to look into diesels while improving the efficiency of its gasoline powered vehicles. This week the company displayed several of those new technologies and recently announced it would begin looking into hybrid technology.
One of the engines featured in Tokyo was a new 2.2-liter turbo diesel motor that is expected to deliver a 50 percent fuel-economy improvement over the current engine, which gets 31.4 mpg (average) in the CX-7 diesel (pictured above).
With Mazda’s hybrid program still in its infancy, diesels may be used in the interim. If Mazda were to start selling diesels in North America they would be the only Japanese automaker to do so. Currently Volkswagen (a long time proponent of diesels) is expanding its diesel offerings in North America with considerable success.
Even if the diesel plan does go ahead, it is not clear if Mazda intends to sell diesel versions of its SUVs or if it would follow in VW’s footsteps and offer fuel-miser versions of cars like the Mazda3 or the upcoming Mazda2.
[Source: Automotive News via LeftLaneNews]
Mazda recently unveiled a diesel version of its CX-7 SUV at the Geneva Auto Show and the company has announced it is looking to expand its diesel offerings with new smaller engines aimed at hybrid competitors.
Mazda’s head of research and development has announced that the automaker will tread a different path than its Japanese counterparts, looking to a future in diesel cars rather than hybrid ones.
Engineers at the company are currently working on a 2.0-liter diesel engine that would be as fuel-efficient as a 660cc gasoline engine or a similarly powerful hybrid car. The added bonus is that it would be significantly cheaper to produce and that cost savings would be passed on to consumers – who currently pay a premium for hybrid models.
One major reason for the cost savings is a new single-nanotechnology catalyst Mazda is working on, which requires significantly less precious metals in its construction. Another cost-savings measure is a new diesel particulate filter that would eliminate the need for costly exhaust treatment systems.
“We believe that improving today’s conventional engines at a low cost is the most effective way to get fuel-efficient cars to proliferate,” R&D boss Seita Kanai told reporters.
Mazda intends to bring such a diesel engine to market by 2011, although it is not clear if the engine would be in a new model and if that model would be available worldwide.
In addition, Mazda plans to increase the fuel-economy of its fleet by 30 by 2015.
At the Geneva Auto Show earlier this month Mazda took the wraps off a turbo-diesel CX-7. Using a 2.2-liter powerplant, this new engine produces 171hp at 3500 rpm and 295 ft-lbs of torque at 2000 rpm. It also gets a combined fuel economy rating of 31.4 mpg.
Future Mazda plans to increase fuel-economy also include advancements in automatic transmission technology (like the company’s new Start/Stop system) and an overall reduction in vehicle weight.
Kanai said that models released in 2011 or after will weigh roughly 220 lbs less than current models, with a further similar reduction in weight happening in 2016.
GALLERY: Mazda CX-7 Diesel