Jaguar Land Rover diesel plans move ahead, despite VW mess

Diesel engines may be suffering in the public eye due to the Volkswagen diesel-emission cheating scandal, but luxury carmakers, including Jaguar, are pushing forward. The automaker is planning a diesel Land Rover for the US market. 

Vivek Prakash/Reuters/File
The Jaguar logo is pictured at a Jaguar Land Rover showroom in Mumbai.

Diesel engines may be suffering in the public eye due to the scale of the Volkswagen diesel-emission cheating scandal, but luxury carmakers are pushing forward with plans to boost overall fuel efficiency by fitting more of them to pricey premium models.

No maker has a more ambitious diesel program relative to its sales than Britain's Jaguar Land Rover, which will offer diesels in every model it sells except the F-Type two-seat sports car.

The company has recently reaffirmed its diesel plans for the U.S., both directly to High Gear Media reporter Kirk Bell and in an article last week in industry trade journal Ward's Auto.

The general manager of product planning for Jaguar Land Rover North America, Rob Filipovic, spoke with Bell at a meeting of the Midwest Automotive Media Association the Frankfurt Motor Show last month.

He noted that the company's first two diesel models--the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport--were just about to go on sale in the U.S.

And, he said, the company's first cars with its new 2.0-liter Ingenium diesel engines would go on sale next summer, including the XE compact sport sedan, the XF mid-size sedan, and the new F-Pace crossover utility wagon.

Not unexpectedly, he confirmed to Bell that all of JLR's diesel vehicles had been designed and engineered to be fully legal in all 50 states.

They would, he said, meet the regulations "all the time"--punctuated on the interview tape with general laughter over the allusion to Volkswagen's "defeat device" software that bypassed emission controls when the car was operating in real-world use.

Filipovic said the company "sees great benefits" in diesel engines, as do its customers, who found diesels as quiet as petrol engines on blind test drives--but are likely to get far better fuel efficiency.

He noted that Jaguar, Land Rover, and Range Rover charge only a $1,500 premium for the diesel engine over a comparably equipped gasoline model, which he termed "a great, affordable price point."

Finally, he suggested that diesel fuel is now available at 70 percent of U.S. fueling stations, mostly integrated into the regular pump ranks rather than separately located out where trucks can fuel up.

That percentage was 55 percent in North America as of May 2014, according to Integer Research data provided last summer by the Diesel Technology Forum, so it may be slightly lower than Filipovic's estimate.

Still, in line with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even Porsche, it appears that diesels will continue to be a preferred method for luxury brands to boost their average fuel efficiency.

While electric cars get more media attention, diesels today remain the easiest and least costly way to meet increasingly strict regulations that will climb steadily through 2025.

That's especially true for the European brands that already fit diesels in up to half the vehicles they sell in that region.

According to Ward's Auto, in their first month of sales, the two diesel Range Rover models together comprised sales of 330 units--or about 16 percent of those models' total sales.

Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, said the company hopes to reach a 20-percent take rate for its diesels over time.

All are fitted with the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment system that injects liquid urea into the exhaust stream to convert nitrous oxides to nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

Jaguar is also expected to launch an all-electric version of the F-Pace sometime after the launch of the crossover's gasoline and diesel versions next year.

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