WASHINGTON, D.C. – Daimler-Chrysler wants government regulators here to give diesel models a fair chance if tax credits are introduced for US consumers who buy environmentally friendly vehicles.
US lawmakers are considering consumer tax credits to promote sales of environmentally friendly, advanced-technology vehicles such as gasoline-electric hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.
But Tim McBride, Daimler-Chrysler’s vice president of external affairs for the Americas, says it would be wrong to eliminate diesel engines from any new incentives aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions.
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 US dependence on imported oil, McBride says.
McBride heads D/C’s Washington office. He insists the automaker does not seek relaxed clean-air rules.
DaimlerChrysler, more than some competitors, advocates diesel technology even as it invests in hybrid and fuel cell development.
D/C began selling a diesel Mercedes-Benz E class in the US in May. The automaker started producing a diesel version of the Jeep Liberty in November. It hopes to sell 5,000 a year in North America.
The US Congress declined to add the vehicle tax breaks to a tax bill it enacted in October. But McBride says the proposal likely will return when lawmakers take up energy legislation in the next session.
The auto industry argues such credits are needed to offset the initial higher costs of the technologies and to gain public acceptance.
D/C officials say they seek policies in the US that will promote production of high-quality, low-sulfur diesel fuel.
They also want to ensure acceptance of emissions-control devices that may be needed to keep diesel engines in compliance with clean air standards.
The diesel engine’s future in the US 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.