Despite engineering delays, Mazda still plans to launch a diesel engine in its Mazda6 midsize sedan, the company’s top North American executive said.
“We’re still very much committed to diesel,” Jim O’Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, said in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “We are still working on getting the performance aspects up to where we want them, and we do have a plan — an engineering road map — to get it done.”
Mazda originally planned to launch the turbocharged 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D engine in 2013, but struggled to meet U.S. tailpipe emissions standards. The plan was to lower the sticker price of the diesel Mazda6 by designing an engine so clean that it didn’t require a costly after treatment system. The design sapped so much power that U.S. executives decided in January to delay its launch.
“If we were a commodity brand and didn’t care about that, it would be on the market right now,” O’Sullivan said. “I know the people were expecting something from us, expecting certain drive characteristics and performance, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
He said the diesel engine remains economically viable despite falling gasoline prices. A gallon of regular gasoline cost an average of $2.84 in the U.S. on Nov. 21, according to AAA, down from $3.22 a year earlier. The price premium for diesel grew to 76 cents per gallon over that time.
“I think there’s still a huge business case for clean diesel here in North America, being still the only Asian brand that’s talking about bringing it in,” O’Sullivan said. “Even with fuel prices the way they are.”
Photo Credit: Mazda