WASHINGTON -- DaimlerChrysler AG wants government regulators to give diesel models a fair shake as they mull tax credits for environmentally friendly vehicles.
Policy makers are pushing gasoline-electric hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. But Tim McBride, DaimlerChrysler's vice president of external affairs for the Americas, says it is wrong to eliminate diesel engines while mandating sharp cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, a byproduct of burning fuel.
McBride heads DaimlerChrysler's Washington office. He insists the automaker does not seek relaxed clean-air rules.
But DaimlerChrysler, more than some competitors, advocates diesel technology even as it invests in hybrid and fuel cell development.
Lawmakers are considering consumer tax credits to promote sales of environmentally friendly, advanced-technology vehicles. The industry argues such credits are needed to offset the initial higher costs of the technologies and to gain public acceptance.
Congress declined to add the vehicle tax breaks to a giant tax bill it enacted in October. But McBride says the proposal likely will return when lawmakers take up energy legislation in the next session.
A diesel's fuel economy is at least 25 percent better than that of a comparably powered gasoline engine. It can help cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, McBride says.
The diesel engine's future in the United States is uncertain. Automakers must meet tougher clean air standards, which are being phased in through the 2009 model year. They also must overcome many Americans' bad memories of earlier diesel vehicles.
DaimlerChrysler is betting it can achieve both goals. It began selling a diesel Mercedes-Benz E class in May. The automaker is launching a diesel Jeep Liberty.
DaimlerChrysler officials say they seek policies that will promote production of high-quality, low-sulfur diesel fuel. They also want to ensure acceptance of emission control devices that may be needed to keep diesel engines in compliance with clean air standards.
McBride notes the federal government has increased fuel-economy standards for light trucks in the 2005-07 model years. More increases are likely to follow. The industry, he says, "understands and accepts that."
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