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NAIAS 2017: Ford, General Motors Give Second Chance to Diesels

2018 Ford F-150 comes with a diesel option for the first time ever (Image: AFP Relaxnews)

2018 Ford F-150 comes with a diesel option for the first time ever (Image: AFP Relaxnews)

The new vehicles in question are the 2017 Ford F-150 Pickup truck and the GMC Terrain SUV.

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Just as it looked as if diesel was dead, Ford and GM have announced details of new models with diesel, rather than gasoline engines, under their hoods.

The new vehicles in question are the 2017 Ford F-150 Pickup truck and the GMC Terrain SUV -- two of the most popular vehicle types on US roads. And what's more, they were unveiled at a Detroit Auto Show that is likely to go down in history as a turning point for manufacturers' move away from fossil fuels in favor of electrified drive.

VW used its press conference to apologize yet again for its indirections regarding diesel engines, while the show opened with the Chevrolet Bolt becoming the first EV ever to win the North American Car of the Year award.

Breakthroughs regarding electrification are coming at an increasing rate now that battery-powered cars -- and the people that want them -- are being taken seriously by the auto industry.

"Almost every major automaker has announced plans to develop EVs," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. "Last year, EV sales were up 60% globally; and some analysts see more than 25% of new vehicles in urban regions sold as EV by 2030. This is not a prediction many would have made six years ago."

And this increased focus on electrification is coming at a time when diesel's name has never been more tainted in America. The US Department of Transportation's most recent data shows that just 1.5% of cars, vans, pickups and SUVs sold in 2014 were diesel powered and until Dieselgate hit, Volkswagen routinely accounted for over half of all diesel car sales.

In Europe, diesels account for over 50% of all new car sales, yet despite a short dalliance with the fuel in the 1980s, American consumers have never been sold on the extra torque or miles per gallon diesel can deliver.

However, in the years between electric cars becoming affordable and becoming the norm, diesel is still viewed as a crucial component by carmakers including Mercedes in cleaner, more responsible motoring and of preserving oil supplies in the short term.

And, by deciding to offer SUVs and pickups rather than sedans with a diesel option, Ford and GM could help to rehabilitate the fuel's image.

"The addition of new clean diesel options in these dominant sectors will go a long way toward boosting the diesel market share in the US," said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "These announcements send a strong message that diesel remains an important option for meeting the future vehicle needs of US drivers."

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