Delving into Dodge’s Diesel Future: Does Anyone In America Really Care?

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Photo courtesy of Autoblog

dodge-hornet-630.jpgby Patrick Rall

The Dodge brand is no stranger to diesel engines, as the Cummins Turbo Diesel has been a mainstay in the truck lineup for years. But since Ram Trucks split away from the Dodge cars, minivans and SUVs, there haven’t been any diesel powered Dodge models. But with CEO Marchionne being a professed believer in a non-hybrid, diesel/gas future, the writing must be on the wall, right?

Even the Jeep brand has had a handful of diesel burning models with
rumors of more on the way, but due to the relative lack of interest in
diesel passenger cars in the US, the Chrysler Group has kept the oil
burners in the trucks and SUVs.  However, with new parent company Fiat
having generations of diesel passenger car success – combined with the
influx of new diesel models from European companies and even Chevrolet –
we could soon see a Dodge vehicle powered by a diesel engine.

In Europe, diesel engines have been a popular choice since their
introduction decades ago, but with the exception of a few diesel
Volkswagen models, there have been very few non-gasoline combustion
vehicles offered in the US.  Many American consumers relate “diesel
engine” to being a noisy, brutal engine dumping exhaust fumes like a 70s
era tractor trailer.

Modern technology has made diesel
engines not just quieter, but cleaner and more fuel efficient.  BMW used the 2011 Super Bowl
to introduce their newest diesel 3-series advertising campaign, showing
off how much cleaner the new diesel technology is, and while it is no
surprise to see European companies offering a diesel powered vehicle for
the American market, it did come as a shock when General Motors
announced that they will soon be selling their popular Chevy Cruze in
diesel form. 

The success of the diesel Cruze along with the growing
popularity of the European diesel models from VW and BMW could lead to
more oilburners in the US. With the help of Fiat technology – Dodge
would be an obvious choice for a new clean-diesel powered vehicle.

This new Dodge diesel vehicle could come in the form of the new C
segment sedan that is set to debut at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, reportedly being called the Dodge Hornet (pictured above). 
Serving as the replacement for the Dodge Caliber, the new Alfa
Romeo-based compact sedan will initially be gas powered, but depending on
the continued growth of the diesel passenger car segment, perhaps Fiat
will put together a diesel package to go head to head with the Cruze. 

Also, if Fiat wants to test the waters for a diesel passenger car, the
company has several tiny 4-cylinder diesel mills currently used in
Europe to make up some of the country’s most fuel efficient models that
could plug right into the American-sold Fiat 500.  Provided that things
continue to boom in the diesel car market, these tiny Fiat diesels could
find their way into not just the Alfa-based models, but with the Dodge
Grand Caravan being marketed in Europe with a diesel engine, the
American auto industry’s most popular minivan could be the first Dodge
brand vehicle to be the recipient of Fiat’s clean diesel technology.

What do you think? Should Dodge delve into diesel? Does anyone in America really care? Shout off in the Forums!

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