Germanys three premium carmakers believe high gasoline prices in the US and new clean-diesel technology could persuade American consumers to switch to fuel-saving diesel models.
Mercedes-Benz says it will add three more diesel models in the US – the M class and GL class premium SUVs and the R class SUV/minivan crossover – within two or three years.
Currently Mercedes sells a diesel version of its E class medium-premium sedan in the US. The E320 CDI sold around 5,000 units in the US last year, about 10 percent of the 50,400 E class US sales.
Audi is considering selling a 3.0-liter diesel version of its new Q7 premium SUV in the US. It could go on sale before a Q7 hybrid that is planned for 2008.
Burkhard Göschel, BMWs board member for research and development, said the Munich-based carmaker will offer diesel cars in the US by 2008.
BMW is holding back selling diesels in the US until its urea-injection technology is ready for series production.
A urea injection system works by shooting an ammonia-like acid into the exhaust pipes, reducing nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) that are blamed for exacerbating respiratory problems such as asthma.
Mercedes will launch its clean diesel technology in the E320 BlueTec in the autumn and on its other US diesel models as they arrive on the market.
The technology will not be used in Europe until 2008. Mercedes says the technology must be tweaked before it is suitable for European driving patterns. Mercedes BlueTec system uses urea injection to reduce NOx emissions.
Diesel cars almost vanished from the US market in the 1980s because of stricter emission standards – and issues such as poor reliability, smell, noise, fuel availability and less power for the same engine displacement.
Volkswagen has been the only automaker that has consistently offered diesels in the US. Last year VW sold more than 29,000 diesels in the US.