SEMA eNews Vol. 10, No. 32, August 9, 2007

EUROPEAN FOUR-CYLINDER DIESEL COULD END UP IN NORTH AMERICAN MARKET

During Chrysler’s “What’s New” media preview last month, global product development chief Frank Klegon shook things up by announcing the automaker is exploring a four-cylinder diesel for North America, according to a recent article by Diesel Forecast.

Klegon didn’t provide more details, dangling the question of whether Chrysler, in the midst of an ownership transition, will pull one vehicle from its stable of European diesels or look outside the box with an all-new engine. 

James Weidenbach, who manages diesel applications and powertrain platform engineering at Chrysler, noted that “there’s a clear recognition inside (Chrysler) of the importance of diesel in the United States. We need to figure out a way to convince the American public of that alternative.”

Weidenbach hinted that Chrysler in fact will look to Europe for a U.S. diesel. “From a development side, it’s much easier to use an existing product than to engineer from scratch,” he says.

Chrysler’s overseas four cylinders include the 2.2L on the PT Cruiser, and the 2.0L in the Sebring and Avenger. That 2.0L is built by Volkswagen, which will introduce a 50-state diesel 2.0L next year on its Jetta TDI and will not require after-treatment fluid, such as urea, to meet emissions standards.

Chrysler’s European diesel lineup also includes the 300 Sedan and Touring 3.0L V6, Voyager and Grand Voyager (Town & Country) 2.8L four-cylinder. “It gives us a lot of flexibility,” Weidenbach says. “The offerings we have now give us the ability to go lots of different directions.”

Weidenbach has a good grounding in what Americans may want, or may not want, having shepherded the 2.8L four-cylinder Jeep Liberty to market. The vehicle first went on sale in 2005 and was discontinued in 2006. Rated at 160 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, the common rail diesel was compared with the 210 hp and 235 lb-ft on the 3.7L gasoline V6 Liberty. At the time, some critics were disappointed the diesel Jeep did not have superior towing capacity to the gasoline equivalent 5,000-lb. benchmark.

Still, Weidenbach has no regrets about the Liberty CRD market or road performance. “The Liberty sold three times more than we anticipated,” he says. “It was truly a test case.”

For now, Chrysler is returning to the upscale market with the 3.0L V6 diesel engine on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, priced at $38,475. The Grand Cherokee is a 3.0L common rail turbo diesel with 215 hp, 376 lb.-ft. of torque with 7,400 lbs. of towing capacity.

Weidenbach notes improvements in electronics are likely to yield the greatest engine efficiencies and refinement. He cites the example of pilot injection, which opens the fuel-injection nozzle to allow a tiny amount of fuel before the main injection in an effort to decrease engine knock. “We’re metering down to a cubic millimeter of fuel,” he says. “That’s pretty good, but I think you need to get down to half a millimeter.”

Source: Anderson, Scott. (July, 2007). “Chrysler Mulls European Lineup for U.S. Diesel Entry.” Diesel Forecast. Retrieved August 3, 2007 from www.dieselforecast.com

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