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Besides economy and performance, there also is the prestige factor. Bragging rights are a strong feature of Korean culture and the domestic diesels approach the status of the coveted German imports that mostly are diesel-powered.
New Grandeur shares 2.2L all-aluminum diesel engine with Santa Fe CUV.
The U.S. automaker’s Korean affiliate, surprisingly, has relatively few diesels in its domestic sales mix, considering the company has offered diesel mills on its Chevrolet Cruze compacts and Captiva compact CUVs since 2009 and on the Orlando compact MPV since 2011.
For all of 2013 diesel cars and SUVs accounted for only 21,609 units, or roughly 14%, of GM Korea’s 151,040 domestic vehicle sales. The automaker aims to raise that percentage.
“Korean consumers may eventually come to appreciate diesels as much as consumers in other parts of the world, such as Europe, where diesel cars account for roughly 60% of total sales,” a spokesman tells WardsAuto.
“We believe fuel-efficient and fun-to-drive alternative transportation propulsion technologies such as clean-diesel engines have great potential,” he says. “With the release of the Chevrolet Malibu Diesel we are further tapping into what we see as a potential growth segment in Korea.”
The ’14 Malibu diesel unveiled in March is equipped with a 2.0L Ecotec turbodiesel built in Germany by GM stablemate Opel. It was selected as one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2014.
Mated to a 6-speedSeiki transmission out of Japan, the diesel mill generates 156 hp compared with 141 hp for the same-displacement gasoline engine. Average combined fuel economy is 31.3 mpg (7.5 L/100 km), compared with 27.3 mph (8.6 L/100 km) for a Malibu with a 2.0L naturally aspirated gasoline engine.
After its unveiling the Malibu quickly outsold its build capacity, limited by a delivery schedule of 500 engines monthly from Germany. When orders reached 3,000 units, sales of ’14 models were cut off and additional potential buyers were put on the ’15-model-year waiting list.
GM Korea builds its own 2.0L VCDi diesel engine at its plant in Gunsan. It's applied to the Cruze, Captiva and Orlando.
GM Korea will have four diesel-powered vehicles on display at the Busan show: the Cruze Hatchback and ’14-model-year versions of the Captiva, Orlando and Malibu.