DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has assigned more than 50 of its top diesel engineers to its newly formed North American Diesel Team.
Based at Ford's North American headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., the team is responsible for preparing economical and clean diesel engines for cars and light trucks for North American consumers. That could come as early as 2006, when low-sulfur diesel fuel is available.
Before their assignment to the North American Diesel Team, the engineers worked only on pickup truck engines, says Ford spokesman Joe Koenig. Now the team, which has been expanded, is responsible for diesel engines for cars, pickups and SUVs.
Engineers can make diesel engines that pass the EPA's stringent 2007 model year emissions regulations, which require diesels to run as clean as gasoline engines. What they have not been able to do is come up with affordable devices to remove soot from the exhaust. Parts such as particulate traps and the catalytic converter must not degrade for 10 years or 150,000 miles, targets established by federal regulators.
Diesel Team engineers report to John Koszewnik, director of diesel engines for North America. Before taking over the diesel team, Koszewnik headed engineering for Ford's V-6 and V-8 engines. His team is sharing technology with Ford's European diesel engineers at Volvo and Land Rover in the areas of emissions technology, engineering and fuel injection.
Though Ford abandoned plans last year to launch a light-duty V-6 diesel in the F-150 truck, smaller diesels are inching closer to North American production. Ford is considering test marketing a diesel-powered Focus sedan or hatchback. And Ford's Land Rover division this year will test two diesel-powered Range Rovers and Freelander SUVs.
Ford's only diesel for consumers in North America is a turbocharged V-8 engine in the heavy-duty F-series pickup and the Excursion SUV. The engine costs about $4,000 more than the gasoline engine. Equipment such as a turbocharger and the exhaust-cleaning devices could add as much as $1,500 to the sticker price of a diesel Focus. Volkswagen AG, which sold 32,000 diesel-powered cars in the United States last year, charges about $1,200 extra for its diesel engine.