Chrysler Group is doing better than it expected with its introduction of the diesel Jeep Liberty CRD (earlier post). Through the end of the July, the company has shipped 8,300 units to dealers and sold more than 4,000—compared to its original estimate of selling perhaps 5,000 in the entire first year.
Speaking at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, however, the incoming head of Product Development for the Chrysler Group, Frank Klegon, cautioned against assuming on a rapid expansion of the company’s diesel offerings in the US.
We still need to make a strong business case in order to justify expanding our diesel offerings.
We can’t just bring a European diesel-powered passenger vehicle and put it unchanged into the US market. The fundamental costs are the same whether you are going to produce 5,000 vehicles or 500,000.
In Europe, Chrysler Group sells diesel-powered versions of the Chrysler 300, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler Voyager minivan and the Liberty (badged Jeep Cherokee).
Differences in regulations, fuel quality—and consumer preferences—require extensive development to adapt a product for American consumers, Klegon said.
Despite the caution, he also noted the benefits of the diesel platform: a typical 30% improvement in fuel economy, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, power and performance. The ability to fuel the vehicles with biodiesel adds to the environmental benefit. Chrysler is fueling its Liberty CRD with B5 at the factory in Ohio.
All that makes diesel one of the “cornerstones” for the company’s strategy, which also includes:
More fuel-efficient internal combustion engines
E85 Flex-fuel vehicles
GEM electric vehicles (Chrysler has 30,000 of them in use nationwide)
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles