Mazda delays launch of sedan with diesel engine

Concerns that compliance with US diesel emissions standards may compromise vehicle performance may keep a diesel version of the Mazda 6 sedan off of the US market.

Gene J. Puskar/AP/File
A Mazda logo is seen at the 2013 Pittsburgh Auto Show, in Pittsburgh.

More than nine months after the Volkswagen emissions scandal first broke, its impact on the U.S. diesel market is still being assessed.

It's now becoming clear that VW won't return to selling large numbers of its TDI diesel models in the U.S. any time soon.

Other carmakers remain committed to their diesel models, mostly pickup trucks, SUVs, and luxury cars.

Then there's Mazda.

A diesel version of the Mazda 6 sedan was slated for a U.S. launch back in 2013, but it has gradually slipped down Mazda's list of priorities.

Now, the Mazda diesel engine may be completely off the table for the U.S., according to WardsAuto.

At a recent dinner with reporters, Masahiro Moro—Mazda's new North American CEO—indicated that modifications to meet U.S. emissions standards would compromise the car's performance too much.

Concerns that the engine would not be sporty enough to match Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" image were responsible for previous delays.

More recently, development work was sidelined so Mazda could concentrate on several product launches, including the MX-5 Miata sports car, and its CX-3 and CX-9 crossovers.

Mazda's performance targets for the U.S.-spec engine were also very demanding.

The company originally wanted to sell the engine in the U.S. without an exhaust aftertreatment system, which injects urea fluid into the exhaust to scrub pollutants.

This is the same type of system absent from many of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI models that Volkswagen could only get certified by employing illegal "defeat device" software.

Mazda's Moro said the VW emissions scandal has also hurt the business case for bringing a new diesel to the U.S.—especially for a relatively small company like Mazda.

Green Car Reports reached out to Jacob Brown from Mazda product communications to ask about the fate of the planned diesel sedan.

"Mazda is still studying the market for a diesel engine to make its way to North America," Brown responded.

"We do not have timing for when such an engine would make production, or in what application."

At the same time, Mazda will likely try other avenues to improve fuel efficiency across its model line.

A new generation of gasoline SkyActiv engines set to appear in 2018 is expected to offer increased efficiency over the current engines, which already offer good fuel economy.

Mazda also has an ongoing partnership with Toyota that it may use to gain access to the plug-in hybrid powertrain from the 2017 Prius Prime.

Starting in 2018, California laws will require Mazda to sell a plug-in car, but the company likely lacks the resources to develop the powertrain for such a car on its own.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.

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