HELL, MI –intends to stick with its current safeguards against putting gasoline in the new-for-’14 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, despite a decision this week by industry rival to step up precautions against the engine-killing mistake.
“We’re examining the whole thing and don’t know if that’s the way to go or not,” Cruze diesel chief engineer Gary Altman tells WardsAuto during at test drive of GM’s first diesel-powered car for the U.S. market in 30 years.
, which has been selling diesel versions of its Jetta compact car in the U.S. for more than a decade, alerted dealers this week of a customer-service program to retrofit models dating back to the ’09 model year with a “misfuel guard assembly kit” consisting of a new guard, collar, fuel flap and fuel cap with yellow “diesel” lettering to prevent the mistake.
Smaller-diameter fuel-filler collars on gasoline-powered vehicles prevent owners from mistakenly filling up with diesel at the pump. But gas-pump nozzles easily fit into larger-diameter diesel fuel-filler collars. Labels at the pump and on the vehicles themselves sometimes are not enough to prevent the mistake, which in either case can ruin an engine.
Vehicle warranties do not cover misfueling, which can lead to poor customer satisfaction.
Such scenarios led Volkswagen to perform the retrofit, which will cover 209,415 Jetta and Golf units in North America. The auto maker tells WardsAuto the action addresses a “small percentage” of its diesel customers making the mistake. Volkswagen diesels for the ’13 model year already feature the new design.
“We are implementing this service action in order to further enhance the ownership experience,” Volkswagen says in a statement. “Last year, we implemented a labeling campaign for our (diesel) customers and as (another) safeguard, we are implementing a customer-service action that will help prevent misfueling.”
The Cruze diesel, which also operates on B20 biodiesel, includes an advisory on the instrument panel’s fuel gauge indicating it should be filled only with low-sulfur diesel fuel. A second advisory appears on the fuel-filler door and “diesel” is printed in black on the green filler cap.
The action by Volkswagen illustrates the dilemmas auto makers such as GM,and face in reintroducing affordable diesel engines to the U.S. market over the next several months as they work to diversify their lineups against fluctuating fuel prices and rising corporate average fuel economy rules.
For starters, American consumers have not used the technology in decades and an entirely new generation of buyers has entered the market since previous-generation diesels exited.
And while auto makers adhere to an industry standard for the size of the filler collar, experts tell WardsAuto, fueling stations are free to use any size nozzle on their gasoline and diesel pumps.
There are no labeling or color-coding standards for fueling stations, either.
As for GM, the auto maker believes it has the proper precautions in place for now. “We’re talking about it internally,” says Mike Siegrist, assistant chief engineer on the Cruze turbodiesel.
Sales of the Cruze diesel in select markets are under way, and GM expects inventories of the Lordstown, OH-built model to start building in the coming weeks. By later this summer, it will be available nationwide and in Canada, with a base price of $25,695.
The 2.0L turbodiesel engine, sourced from GM’s Kaiserslautern, Germany, engine plant, is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and delivers a peak 46 mpg (5.1 L/100 km), according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. It boasts a range of 717 miles (1,154 km).
Key performance numbers include 151 hp and 264 lb.-ft. (358 Nm) of torque. The diesel model accelerates from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.6 seconds.
GM sees U.S. consumers considering the Cruze diesel on its performance merits as much as its fuel economy.