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BMW Expects Slow Acceptance of New Diesel Offerings in U.S.

“In some of our markets, 60% of our vehicles are diesels, but people’s memories of old diesels (in the U.S.) are not terribly positive,” says Tom Purves.

DETROIT – BMW AG says it doesn’t expect strong initial demand from U.S. customers for its new diesel entries – the ’09 X5 xDrive 35d cross/utility vehicle and 3-Series 335d coupe.

“We’re very realistic,” BMW U.S. Holding Corp. CEO Tom Purves tells Ward's at the North American International Auto Show here. “We know the history of diesels in the U.S., and we don’t expect to see an enormous demand like we do in Europe.”

“In some of our markets, 60% of our vehicles are diesels, but people’s memories of old diesels (in the U.S.) are not terribly positive.”

BMW’s new entries arrive this fall with a 3.0L inline 6 cyl. twin-turbo diesel that develops 265 hp and 425 lb.-ft. of torque (576 Nm). The engine leverages a urea-injection exhaust treatment, which the auto maker calls BluePerformance, to meet 50 states’ emissions requirements.

Purves declines to provide exact estimated take rates for the new diesel models, but says sales likely will begin in the “single digits and grow from there.”

“We also recognize the big difference with diesel is the range you get per tank, not the cost, because diesel (fuel) is relatively expensive here,” he adds.

Although the CUV and coupe will receive the same mill, the different applications will accent the specific vehicle’s attributes.

“This 3-Series with a turbodiesel has as much torque as our 6.0L V-12 gasoline engine, and it all comes in at under 2,000 rpm,” Purves says. “So in a 3-Series, imagine how good that is.

“It’s perfect for America,” he says, noting the X5 diesel’s low-end torque will prove beneficial.

BMW soon will launch a “targeted” marketing campaign to introduce its new diesel models to U.S. customers, Purves says, declining to revel exact details of the advertising initiative. We have a “very specific approach,” he says.

BMW also plans to enter the hybrid-electric vehicle market in the U.S. with an X6 HEV within the next two years. Purves does not reveal sales projections but does say BMW’s approach is to explore all future technologies.

“None of us truly know the end game, but our technology is positioned to find our way through it confidently,” he says.

In addition to the two diesels, BMW reveals production versions of the BMW X6 Sport Activity Coupe and 1-Series convertible at the show here.

Both vehicles are due in the U.S. in late spring.

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