BMW, Mercedes to Offer Diesels in Japan

By Jonathan Spira on 3 December 2011
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X5 xDrive35d and E350 BlueTec On Display at Tokyo Motor Show

Jonathan Spira reports live from the Tokyo Motor Show

While diesels may rule the Autobahn, automakers have faced an uphill battle in gaining acceptance for oilburners in the U.S. There’s at least one market where the percentage of diesel-powered vehicles sold is significantly lower than the figure in the U.S., Japan, land of the hybrid.  In 2010, diesels accounted for 0.2% of the market.

Japanese drivers have stayed away from diesels much for the same reasons that U.S. drivers have been slow to embrace them, namely the image that they are slow, noisy, and belch black smoke.  Sales of new diesel-powered automobiles in the Japanese market stopped completely in 2007 and no new diesel models had been introduced since the beginning of that decade.

Last year, the Japanese Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry implemented new and stricter emissions standards for passenger cars.  In addition, a government subsidy for eco-friendly cars such as hybrids ended last year as well.

Since modern diesels emit less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, some automakers see them as the next wave of eco-friendly vehicles for Japan, especially since the lack of a subsidy for hybrids will put diesels on an equal footing with them.

The first two manufacturers to offer “clean” diesels in Japan were Nissan and Mitsubishi.  Nissan began selling its diesel X-Trail SUV in 2008, followed by Mitsubishi with its Pajero SUV last year.

The two carmakers see diesel technology as key to meeting the new standards for emissions.  Last year, Ryugo Nakao, an executive at Mitsubishi, was quoted in a Japanese newspaper saying that diesel “is an essential technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Click here to continue to Page 2 – BMW and Mercedes-Benz at the Tokyo Motor Show

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