Chrysler Group will introduce a diesel-equipped Jeep Liberty to North America in 2004, making it the only auto maker to offer a diesel-powered SUV in this market.

Chrysler expects to sell 5,000 diesel Liberty SUVs, President Dieter Zetsche says at a DaimlerChrysler Innovation Symposium in New York.

The Liberty will get a 2.8L common rail turbodiesel produced by DaimlerChrysler AG's VM Motori subsidiary in Italy. It will be a newer version than the 2.5L diesel now used in the Liberty's European model, called the Cherokee.

Zetsche says the diesel Liberty will be 30% more fuel-efficient. A manual or automatic transmission will be available and the SUV will be offered in both 2- and 4-wheel drive. Chrysler declines to announce a price for the diesel.

“We presume there will be some premium for it, but we will wind up subsidizing it,” says Bernard I. Robertson, senior vice president-engineering technologies and regulatory affairs.

Zetsche also calls on the government and petroleum industry to foster consumer acceptance of diesels in the U.S., but he isn't committing Chrysler to a large-scale program in North America.