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Despite Previous Doubts, Mazda Bringing Diesels To The U.S.


When it comes to increasing fuel economy across a product range, automakers currently have a few options. First, they can make vehicles lighter and engines more efficient, which will net immediate gains with only modest development costs.

The next step involves either hybridization or the addition of diesel offerings throughout the product line, but both add cost (and potentially, complexity). In March of 2009, Mazda jumped on the clean diesel bandwagon, favoring it for it’s lower cost and high reliability.

Weeks later, the automaker backpedaled, saying that it would embrace hybrids and electric cars in the coming years, instead of focusing exclusively on diesels and more fuel efficient gasoline vehicles.

In the years since, Mazda has invested a significant amount of money on its SkyActiv technologies, which extend to engines (both gas and diesel), transmissions and platforms. The net result is lighter vehicles, with greater fuel efficiency, that still retain the fun-to-drive factor that Mazda has always marketed.

Now comes word from Automotive News (subscription required) that Mazda is back to emphasizing the benefits of clean diesel. Mazda North America CEO Jim O’Sullivan called diesel “a good differentiator,” that would further Mazda’s reputation for “always doing something a little different.”

Mazda will launch its first SkyActiv D diesel engine in the U.S. as early as 2014, and it will likely premier in the CX-5 crossover. Longer term, the SkyActiv D may also find its way into the next Mazda6 mid size sedan, and even a Mazda3 diesel is a (somewhat remote) possibility.

Unlike other automakers, who insist that Americans won’t buy diesels, Mazda cites the success that VW has enjoyed with its TDI models in the U.S.. Said O’Sullivan, “Volkswagen, I honestly believe, gets incremental business above and beyond other brands because they do have a diesel.”

Does that mean that Mazda has given up on hybrids for all markets? Not exactly, since the automaker will launch a hybrid, using a Toyota hybrid drivetrain, in the Japanese market next year.

While Mazda may prefer to march to the beat of a different drummer, it’s smart enough to know that sometimes you need to hedge your bets.
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