VW Scandal Could Delay Mazda Diesels

Mazda Motor Corp.’s plans to introduce a diesel car in its most important market risk falling further behind schedule after Volkswagen AG flouted U.S. rules and unleashed global regulatory scrutiny on the technology.

The cloudy outlook for Mazda’s U.S. diesel ambitions stands out as an example of collateral damage from VW’s cheating on U.S. emissions tests. Revelations that the German company achieved its promise of “clean diesel” by using software to beat laboratory tests not only sullied consumer perception of the cars, they also cast doubt on Mazda’s ability to create an engine that’s both fuel efficient and clean.

“It’s been delayed and delayed, and Mazda keeps saying it’s coming,” Dave Sullivan, an analyst for industry researcher AutoPacific Inc., said by phone. “At this point, I don’t understand why they would need a diesel for this market. I don’t see it happening.”

Mazda’s engineers are trying to develop the Skyactiv-D engine in line with U.S. emissions standards without sacrificing performance, said Michiko Terashima, a company spokeswoman. The company doesn’t have a time frame for introducing the engine but won’t change its plan because of the Volkswagen case, she said.

Mazda is the Japanese carmaker most reliant on diesel, with about 45 percent of its domestic sales from diesel models in the quarter through June. By contrast, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have prioritized hybrids and electric vehicles, respectively.

“Mazda is aiming to introduce the diesel vehicles in North America, but this Volkswagen cheating case looms dark in front,” Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW Inc. in Tokyo, said by phone. “There is the possibility that authorities raise the bar of emissions testing even higher. That would be a burden for their strategy.”

Mazda had aimed to bring a Mazda6 diesel model to the U.S. in 2013. While it’s not for sale in the country, the company still promotes the Skyactiv-D engine on its U.S. website with a video that declares they’ve come a long way since Rudolf Diesel invented them in 1893.

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