DETROIT – Kia Motors America says its new Borrego SUV, unveiled at the 2008 North American International Auto Show here today, will get a V-6 clean-diesel engine at some point during its first generation.

KMA CEO Len Hunt says two-three years into the Borrego's lifecycle is an appropriate estimate for a diesel to arrive.

“It’s not going to be too far into the future,” he tells reporters here following a press conference.

Hunt says he is uncertain if Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. also will receive the engine.

A Hyundai official told media in Seoul last April the Hyundai Veracruz cross/utility vehicle would get a diesel option in the U.S. near the end of the decade.

“We’ve got the diesel technology available to us," Hunt says. "I think in a vehicle of this size, the torque and the power of a body-on-frame vehicle is probably more suited to diesel than hybrid. One of the key facets of Kia is value, and (a) hybrid (is) a pretty expensive technology. So we’re really keen on diesel.”

With tougher, new corporate average fuel economy regulations, Hunt says the U.S. market is “going to go the way Europe did. Gas is not going to get cheaper, and I think people will move toward technology like diesel.”

This year, Kia expects to sell 12,000 Borregos in the U.S. and 24,000 in 2009, the vehicle's first full sales year. The Borrego goes on sale this summer.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com