TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Chrysler group has built more than 8,300 Jeep Liberty SUVs with diesel engines and expects production to hit 10,000 units this calendar year – double the amount it originally predicted. More than 60,000 consumers have expressed interest in the vehicle.
That success is helping Chrysler be bullish on diesel-powered vehicles in the American market, said Frank Klegon, vice president of product development process and components, at the Management Briefing Seminars on Friday.
The limit on building more diesel Liberty SUVs is constraints on engine production at supplier VM Motori in Cento, Italy. That factory supplies the 2.8-liter diesel used in the Liberty and diesel engines used in Chrysler group vehicles sold in Europe.
Chrysler is considering using diesels in other North American products. Jeep Grand Cherokees and Chrysler 300 sedans sold in Europe are fitted with diesels. Klegon said all new Chrysler products that will be sold in Europe are being engineered to accept a diesel powertrain.
But despite that success, Klegon admitted that he still has some concerns about the future of diesels in North America.
You would think it would be a slam dunk to bring more passenger cars with diesel to the American market, he said. However, we still need a strong business case in order to justify an expanded diesel offering.
Those concerns range from anticipating the needs of the consumer to the quality of diesel fuel. Europeans expect their diesels to be tailored for high-speed driving, while American consumers value low-end torque and towing capabilities.
Klegon said one of the bright spots in diesel fuel is the development of bio-diesel, a combination of diesel and fuel made from renewable resources, such as soybeans. Chrysler is engineering its diesel vehicles to run on B5, which is diesel fuel with a 5-percent concentration of soybean oil.
Senior Writer Dale Jewett contributed to this report.
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