FORD BUILDS TURBODIESEL-POWERED cars in Europe but is not rushing to offer them in the U.S., Dan Kapp, director-Powertrain Research, tells Ward's following his address at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars.

Currently, Ford offers diesels in the U.S. only on its heavy-duty F-Series pickups.

“I love diesels and want them to be a solution,” Kapp says. “But it's a tough economic challenge.” Turbodiesels typically add 10% to 15% to a vehicle's cost, and diesel fuel currently runs about $0.20 a gallon higher than regular gasoline.

“Will customers pay more for a diesel? Will they get a payback?” he asks. “Diesel fuel may continue to go up in price, so we're looking at it. It may be that diesels will be a choice (vis-a-vis) electric vehicles.”

Kapp says Ford might offer a diesel in the U.S. “if there's market demand.” General Motors recently confirmed it will offer a turbodiesel option on the Chevrolet Cruze subcompact. The Cruze competes with the Ford Focus turbodiesel in Europe.

Meeting the proposed federal fuel-economy standard of 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100 km) by 2025 “will depend on the technology to get there. But the question in my mind is ‘What's the consumer equation?’” he says, implying that meeting the bogey may prove too costly to car buyers.

Assessing the outlook for powertrains, Kapp says improving the efficiency of internal-combustion engines will remain the first order of business. He cites Ford's EcoBoost technology now available on 13 models, including the optional V-6 on the F-150 pickup line traditionally powered by V-8s.

“The V-6 is now accounting for 41% of all F-150 sales,” Kapp says. “That would've been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Between 2012 and 2017, auto makers will push for weight savings ranging from 200 to 700 lbs. (91 to 317 kg) to help meet increasingly tougher fuel-economy standards.

“If we can build it lighter, we can use a smaller engine, which also saves weight as well as improving fuel economy,” Kapp points out.

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