Why Chevy's 46-mpg diesel Cruze is a big deal

The fuel-thrifty car now leads a fleet of vehicles that proves Detroit can compete with foreign rivals more known for fuel efficiency.

By Jason Notte Apr 18, 2013 3:31PM
The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel engine makes its debut at the Chicago Auto Show on February 7, 2013 (© John Gress/Newscom/Reuters)Remember when automakers in Detroit were racing to build the largest, least fuel-efficient "light truck" sport-utility vehicle on the road? My, how times have changed.

With Hummer dead, the SUV crowd shifting to smaller crossovers and companies such as Tesla (TSLA), Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY) and Honda (HMC) encroaching on both the luxury and commuter markets with plug-ins and hybrids, the folks at Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) had to adapt quickly.

And GM showed just how quickly it has caught up by announcing Thursday that its 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel will get a whopping 46 miles per gallon on the highway, beating previous estimates.

That's not just some one-off number, either. Back in January, Kelley Blue Book compiled its list of the 25 cars hitting the road in 2013 with combined city and highway mileage of 40 mpg or better. GM and Ford alone accounted for six of the cars on the list. While that's still somewhat low compared with the nine 40-mpg cars Toyota produces through its main, Lexus and Scion brands, it's an accelerated step in the right direction for Detroit.

It's also a move the car companies have little choice in making. Under the latest fuel economy standards from the Obama administration, carmakers' new vehicle fleets will have to average 35.5 mpg or better by 2016 to be sold in the U.S. The price for missing that mark is $5 for every 0.1 mile over the bar for each vehicle produced.

That's a tough number to meet, even with the restrictions relaxed to just 26 mpg for trucks. But despite early wailing about how impossible that task would be, the U.S. automakers seem up to task.

Cars like the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid are already on the road, but newer models like Ford's C-Max line of Prius-style hybrids and plug-in hybrids and the all-electric Ford Focus are adding to U.S. automakers' high-mileage presence.

In fact, the Focus is now the subject of a dispute between Ford and Toyota over who makes the world's best-selling car. Ford claims it's the Focus and cites automotive research firm R.L. Polk's numbers to back it up. Toyota claims that Ford is nuts and that the Corolla is clearly the best seller by 300,000 rebranded units that Polk isn't counting.

That Ford is even in this position after having reported its largest loss in company history in 2006 and having had its corporate bonds considered junk as recently as last year is nothing shy of remarkable.

That GM is producing a diesel Cruze and regaining market share little more than four years after its bankruptcy and government takeover is just as solid a reason for Detroit to rev its engines again.

More on moneyNOW

Apr 18, 2013 4:29PM
If they are serious about mileage why can't I buy a diesel small truck? What about an F150 or 1500?
Apr 18, 2013 7:04PM
If the diesel version gets 20% better mileage, and diesel fuel costs 20% more....how is anyone saving any money?  Also, I'll bet that the diesel version costs 20% more to purchase than the gas version.....how does one win there?
Apr 19, 2013 2:37PM
I had a diesel vehicle I got rid of because diesel is more expensive than the most expensive premium gas. Why? It's less refined than gas...
Apr 18, 2013 5:04PM
What are you saving?  The car cost $8000 more than the identical gas version.  Diesel cost about $1 more a gallon.    And, 46 mpg is GM"s optimistic estimate, not anyone else s.
Apr 19, 2013 10:39PM

I currently own a vw Jetta TDI turbo diesel. First if you were standing next to this car you would not know it was a diesel. Its quite no black smoke no smell. I drive mostly city and some highway. I fill up one a month or less. Diesel is $0.30 more a gallon here in Houston. My average fuel cost per month is $72.62 or $871 per year. I drive an average 538.13 miles per month or 6456.82 miles per year. In 4 years I have had absolutely no cost except for my last oil change. I will keep my diesel and never go back to gas. 4 cylinder 150 HP over 200 Ft-lib of torque and zero to sixty in a blink of an eye.

Apr 18, 2013 3:52PM
Diesel and natural gas is the way to go for small cars but Americans don't seem to "like" diesels. Hybrid technology should be applied to larger vehicles where they can provide the most mileage gains.
Apr 22, 2013 7:44AM
Natural Gas.  Everyone knows.  We have it, everyone in Asia is using it.  We are now exporting it.  Corn was yesterday---created famine in Africa (another story).   1 yea from now---Natural gas!---clean!
Apr 18, 2013 3:48PM
This is what people should be driving instead of constantly bellyaching, complaining about their gas guzzler getting 12mpg.You have nobody to blame but yourself.Go cry to your mother.
Apr 18, 2013 9:48PM
"According to , about 14% of Michigan lottery winners either receive welfare or live in a household with people who collect benefits. State officials point out that the winners took home an average of $6,800. That's helpful, but it isn't a life-changing event, the wire service noted."  I don't care if it ISN'T a life-changing event, if a person is on welfare, not one penny of that government aid should be going to lottery tickets ... or gambling of any sort ... or cigarettes ... or alcohol ... or DRUGS ... or VACATIONS!!!  I can barely make ends meet, and I know a whole lot of hard working people who are in the same boat!  I don't buy lottery tickets ... I can't afford to buy lottery tickets!  I understand that there is a need for welfare - there are sometimes circumstances beyond a person's control - but our welfare system is TOTALLY out of control, and the ABUSERS should be ashamed of themselves ... Personally, I don't know how they can live with themselves!!!
Apr 21, 2013 1:51AM
I've driven a Chevy Volt since October 2011, and it's delivered as advertised so far, and has been very reliable.  Despite the high sticker price, after 10 years it will have been as cheap as a Prius will have been for me.  When I'm on a long trip (on gas) I get 40 mpg, but most of the time I don't burn any gas at all and pay a fraction of the operating cost of a normal gas or even hybrid car.  While I sympathize with those paying for them, I don't pay attention to the price of gas or diesel.
Apr 19, 2013 1:48PM
Better yet, every time I meet one of the large GM SUV's wheather a Tahoe, Yukon, or Escalaide one of the day running light is no working. And these aren't old units. Imagine $50 grand and they can't fix a running light! Why would I want to experiment with a diesel fresh off the line. I'll stick with VW.
Apr 19, 2013 12:16PM

GM tried a car diesel in the 1980's. It was based on the Chevy small block converted to burn diesel. My Olds Delta 88 spent more time in the garage than the road and fuel economy was not much better than the gas version. I would like to have a car that gets great gas mileage but sticker shock even for a small car is very overwhelming. Believe I'll keep my Chrysler Town and Country and 19mpg till it dies.

Apr 19, 2013 1:59PM
It isn't all about quality, obviously they do build some nice rides. My experience with GM diesels was an exercise in terror. We bought three of them, and within a year traded them.
Apr 23, 2013 2:20AM
Would like to see a smaller diesel in the F350.  I want to tow heavy loads but I don't need to tow a 10000lb trailer up Pikes Peak at 70mph!
Apr 18, 2013 10:13PM

Alot of people will be interested in the mileage until they find out the inconveniences of owning a modern diesel.....urea exhaust  fluid.....the need to plug the block heater in durring the cold winter, otherwise the car won't turn over well due to the higher compression and the weak cold battery... the higher costs of maintaining a diesel.....the high repair costs, diesel components can cost more and the powertrain can be more labor intense when compared to the average 4 cylinder gas engine. I would be skeptical of any new diesel engine that hits the market, I dont want to be the Guinea Pig for that experiment......does anyone remember Fords little foray away from the tried and true 7.3 liter powerstroke...the 6.0 liter diesel, it was a disaster.

Apr 18, 2013 5:01PM

Why is Detroit always bringing up the rear. Always a day late and a dollar short.  Japan has had the foresight and insight to build cars that are economical, fast, reasonably comfortable, and stylish. What's the matter with American automakers? The argument that they were trying to meet market demands doesn't hold water. Just look at who went bankrupt. There is much more I would Like to say but time constraints prevent me from doing so. Besides I hate to be so negative.


May 13, 2013 1:43PM
Caught up?  My VW Passat Turbo Diesel got 49mpg and was produced in 1997!!!!  16 years ago.  Caught up my butt.
May 16, 2013 2:10AM
Having recently purchased a Chevy, the first since a 283ci Impala, Chevy has a long way to go to meet Honda or Toyota service standards. Walk into a Toyota or Honda dealer and people fall over you to help. One Chevy dealer I visited was like a morgue. There 800 CS number sent me to the wrong dealer twice!! Anbd don't get me started on the mychevrolet.com or their apps. Archaic.
Apr 21, 2013 11:19AM

Why would anyone buy anything from Government Motors?   You get poor quality Mexican made parts, shoddy assembly by the UAW.  You can buy a Nissan's right now with far better technology and quality. 


Plus, you don't support the UAW who stole GM from the Bond holders and screwed the pension funds and stockholders.   Don't buy anything GM until they pay off the defaulted debts!



Apr 18, 2013 9:26PM
pocketprotector I agree, exactly, what would you save. The consumer never wins with any of these bright ideas.  I won't be buyin a diesel, it makes me sick just to smell that diesel. If I did happen to save a buck or two with it, I would spend more just going to the Doctor every week. And, that stupid Smart car, goin small is not always smart,  Wait till a Mack truck T-bones ya in one of those, you won't ever have to worry about the price of fuel then, cause you'll be pushin up daiseys. You get what ya pay for, think about it folks, is saving $100 a month worth risking your life for?
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