ATLANTA – BMW wants to clear the air about its plans for diesel engines in the U.S.
Here at the international launch of the fourth-generation X5 sport/activity vehicle, media reports have suggested BMW’s diesel engines will be dead in the U.S. after this year.
True, the 328d, a 3-Series sedan variant with a 2.0L diesel 4-cyl. engine, is the Bavarian automaker’s only compression-ignition engine available in the U.S. at the moment, and it is phasing out this year as an all-new 3-Series will launch early next year.
BMW has made no announcements about engine offerings for the new 3-Series in the U.S., but the company is expected to release information in the coming weeks.
In interviews with WardsAuto, BMW engineers have said diesel engines remain an important part of the automaker’s powertrain portfolio for meeting carbon-dioxide emissions globally.
At the X5 vehicle launch this past weekend here, Christian Gueter, BMW’s head of powertrain for 7-Series, 8-Series, X5, X6 and X7, tells WardsAuto that new diesel engines are being developed at the automaker’s powertrain engineering center in Steyr, Austria.
“You might see also these applications in the U.S.,” Gueter says.
Speculation about diesel’s demise has been widespread since the fall of 2015, when Volkswagen admitted its engineers had rigged diesel engines to meet U.S. emissions testing.
In the wake of the cheating scandal, which has resulted in massive fines, management shakeups and two U.S. criminal convictions, the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands stopped selling diesel engines in the U.S.
The scandal pushed the EPA and California regulators to adopt more rigorous emissions certification procedures for diesels. By the end of 2015, a certification process that had taken six weeks was taking more than six months, automaker engineers said at the time.
Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have offered luxury cars and SUVs for years with diesel engines. But in ’17, Mercedes offered none in the U.S. By the end of this year, the new ’19 Mercedes and Freightliner Sprinter commercial vans will be offered in the U.S. with a 3.0L 6-cyl. turbodiesel, as well as a 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engine.
At BMW, as of this past June, the diesel 3.0L inline 6-cyl. was discontinued in the 5-Series sedan “to better reflect U.S. customer demand. BMW of North America has seen a decrease in BMW 5-Series diesel sales over the past several years, making the business case for the version no longer viable.”
In its place, a plug-in hybrid of the 5-Series sedan, the 530e, has seen dramatic sales growth, the automaker says.
The 3.0L diesel also has been offered – and was quite popular – in the X5, but production of that version has been discontinued as the new X5 is launching now in the U.S. with 2.0L and 3.0L gasoline engines. A plug-in hybrid version of the X5 is planned for 2020.
“The final decision as to whether or not the BMW X5 diesel variant will come to the U.S. market has not been made,” the automaker says in a statement. “BMW of North America continues to monitor customer preferences and is prepared to adjust the product portfolio accordingly.”