Is Ram EcoDiesel EPA Emissions Investigation the Next Nail in the Coffin of Diesel Light Trucks? [Op/Ed]

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V6

You have likely heard about the ongoing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into the FCA Ram EcoDiesel and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel emissions. The EPA case alleges that FCA used and did not disclose turbo-diesel engine management software (in their EcoDiesel vehicles) that may cause excessive harmful emissions in many real-world driving conditions. FCA claims that it has done nothing illegal and offered that the EPA take a look at all the software.

2017 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel trucks are still undergoing a thorough emissions evaluation in the United States until such time that the EPA certifies the trucks as compliant to emissions regulations. A recent report by the Detroit News quotes FCA’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, as saying that the EPA case is making progress and resolution for the 2017 vehicle sales should be found “relatively quickly”.

While this is very positive news to all turbo-diesel fans out there, Sergio also made a few grim statements about the future of turbo-diesels in light trucks and passenger vehicles.

A report by Wards Auto quotes Sergio as saying:

I’m going to give you one number that should shock the living daylights out of you. If you look at the transition to move 80% of our diesel engine families to the next level of compliance for Euro 6 in Europe it’s a half-billion euro ($531 million).

These are not variable costs. These are base technology injections and the development of all the strategies to comply with Euro 6 in the final form in Europe. That’s a big number. That’s something that we don’t carry with gasoline engines. We don’t have such massive technology intervention requirements with gasoline engines that we have with diesel. What’s going to kill diesel, it seems to me, is this continuous drain on capital and this continuous skepticism about its value to society. In this latest round of events, without mentioning competitors, have made this an incredibly undesirable product although its usefulness is beyond doubt.

$531 million is a huge sum of money to bring diesel engines into regulatory compliance. This does not discuss the next level of U.S. emissions standards, but the costs would be similar. Can companies like FCA, GM, Ford, and others afford these high costs to continue to sell turbo-diesel vehicles in Europe, United States, and elsewhere?

Currently, the answer is “yes”. Ford recently announced a 2018 F-150 with a 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6 engine. There are still strong rumors of a turbo-diesel powered 2018 Jeep Wrangler (“JL”). GM has made a commitment to several diesel-powered cars and crossovers (2017 Chevy Cruze, 2018 Chevy Equinox, and the 2018 GMC Terrain). Mazda is planning a turbo-diesel CX-5 for United States as well.

Will we see all these diesels on the American roads within the next year or two? I am starting to get more and more pessimistic.

I have been a strong believer and proponent of diesel vehicles. However, the VW TDI scandal and new information in this article are making me think, this is the next nail in the coffin of small diesel vehicles.

Here is my personal 2002 Chevy Silverado HD 2500 with the Duramax turbo-diesel V8. (I also own a 2002 VW Gold TDI.)