TOKYO – Mercedes-Benz will introduce two diesel-powered cars in Japan next year, as it attempts to persuade customers here to appreciate the advantages of the technology.

"Our aim is also to convince Japanese drivers of the advantages offered by our up-to-date diesel technology," says Mercedes head Dieter Zetsche, who takes over as DaimlerChrysler AG CEO in January.

“We believe that diesel technology will be a success in Japan, just as Japan has succeeded in making hybrid technology popular in many markets.”

Mercedes will offer E-Class sedans and station wagons powered by the 3.2L CDI V-6.

At present, only 1% of cars in Japan are powered by diesels, according to Denso Corp., a member of the Toyota Motor Corp. keiretsu and supplier of diesel injection systems to Toyota in Europe. And Denso executives don't expect that to change.

“There's no doubt we'll have some work to do to improve the image of diesel in Japan,” Zetsche says.

Mercedes also shows a concept S-Class with a mild hybrid system matched to a diesel engine using an exhaust-cleaning technology it calls Bluetec.

“It meets the most stringent exhaust emission standards,” Zetsche says, “including the tough future standards now set for California and here in Japan.”

He says the S-Class accelerates from 0-63 mph (101 km/h) in 7.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h) and gets 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km), which Zetsche says makes it “the most economical luxury sedan in the world.”

In addition, Mercedes pulls the wraps off a new fuel-cell concept car, the F600 Hy-genius, in which the fuel cell is 40% smaller than the auto maker's previous-generation fuel cell, and consumes 16% less energy while producing 115 hp. (See related story: Mercedes to Show Hygenius Concept at Tokyo)

Thomas Weber, DC board member in charge of research and development, says Mercedes has solved problems of starting in cold weather by dehumidifying the system, and the new lithium-ion battery has enough extra capacity that the car's electric motors can take energy either from the fuel cell directly or from the battery.