DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz division plans to launch its “clean diesel” '07 E320 CDI in the U.S. on Oct. 16 — one day after a new federal mandate requires ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel availability at 80% of U.S. diesel pumps.

The ULSD fuel is a key enabler for Mercedes' sophisticated new Bluetec diesel exhaust aftertreatment system that helps make diesel-powered vehicles clean enough to meet tight federal Tier 2 emissions standards phasing in for 2007.

A further advance of the modular Bluetec system, say Mercedes engineers, also eventually will enable new-generation diesels to be sold in California and four other states that already have mandated even lower emissions levels than currently allowed in the 45 Tier II states.

“This is the opportunity we've strived so long for,” says Thomas Weber, DC board of management member-Research & Mercedes Car Group Development.

He says several factors have aligned — including the introduction of ULSD — to make the U.S. market ripe for diesel technology similar to that of Europe, where diesels have exploded from a 23% share of the light-vehicle market in 1996 to more than 50% today.

The power, refinement and fuel-economy advantages of new-technology diesels present the opportunity for an “image breakthrough” in the U.S., a Mercedes official says.