Diesels on dis­play in Frankfurt show despite scan­dal

Manteca Bulletin - - On The Road -

FRANKFURT, Ger­many (AP) — Scan­dals. Re­calls. Threats of bans. The diesel en­gine is a pub­lic enemy for many en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists and politi­cians.

And yet, when the world’s big­gest au­tomak­ers un­veil new mod­els at this year’s auto show in Frankfurt, among the new elec­tric ve­hi­cles and dig­i­tal­lyen­hanced pro­to­types there will also be diesel cars.

The car­mak­ers at the show, mainly Ger­many’s big man­u­fac­tur­ers, are hop­ing to mod­ify diesel en­gines to make them cleaner rather than throw them out al­to­gether. It’s a bid for sta­bil­ity in an in­dus­try roiled by change.

Here’s a quick look at the ma­jor themes and ve­hi­cles ex­pected at the Frankfurt In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show, which opens for jour­nal­ists Tuesday and Wed­nes­day and to the gen­eral pub­lic from Satur­day through Sept. 24. DIESEL DILEMMA Ger­man car­mak­ers, which have re­lied heav­ily on diesel, have been bruised by con­tro­versy over the technology since Volk­swa­gen’s scan­dal, in which the com­pany ad­mit­ted to il­le­gally rig­ging cars to turn off diesel emis­sion con­trols when not on test stands. Sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that many diesels by other man­u­fac­tur­ers met of­fi­cial test stan­dards but emit­ted far more pol­lu­tion dur­ing ev­ery day driv­ing, of­ten by ex­ploit­ing le­gal loop­holes that per­mit­ted them to turn off con­trols at cer­tain tem­per­a­tures. Ger­man car­mak­ers are re­call­ing some 5 mil­lion older diesel ve­hi­cles to tweak their en­gine con­trol soft­ware in hopes of ward­ing off pres­sure for diesel bans in some cities.

So ex­pect a lot of em­pha­sis on emis­sions-free technology such as bat­tery­pow­ered cars. Daim­ler will show off a fully elec­tric, com­pact car un­der its EQ brand, which rep­re­sents the com­pany’s push into ar­eas it has bun­dled un­der the acro­nym CASE: con­nected, au­ton­o­mous, shared and ser­vices, and elec­tric.

It also will un­veil the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell, a fuel-cell and bat­tery plug-in hy­brid that emits only wa­ter va­por. Fuel cell-pow­ered cars are not yet a prac­ti­cal op­tion for con­sumers, with only 33 hy­dro­gen fuel sta­tions in Ger­many, but it’s one pos­si­bil­ity for the fu­ture in which gov­ern­ment regulation will in­creas­ingly re­quire low-emis­sion ve­hi­cles.

DIESEL DESPITE THAT But diesel re­mains in the mix —with what au­tomak­ers say are bet­ter emis­sions con­trols to meet Euro­pean Union stan­dards in which cars will be tested un­der real-world driv­ing con­di­tions, as well as on test stands. Diesels get bet­ter mileage — a big con­sumer is­sue in Europe, where fuel taxes make gaso­line painfully ex­pen­sive. A liter of gaso­line costs 1.31 eu­ros in Frankfurt, or $5.97 a gal­lon. And diesels emit less car­bon diox­ide, mean­ing they help meet reg­u­la­tory lim­its on the green­house gas believed to con­trib­ute to global warm­ing. The new T-Roc small SUV from Volk­swa­gen, for in­stance, will come with three pos­si­ble gaso­line en­gines to choose from — and three diesels. Au­tomak­ers “won’t be shout­ing about it, but diesels will be part of their lineup,” says Ian Fletcher, prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst at IHS Mar­ket.

IHS es­ti­mates diesel’s mar­ket share will fall from 49.7 per­cent in Europe to 46.9 per­cent this year, and to 32.8 per­cent by 2025.

Mercedes-Benz spent 3 bil­lion eu­ros to de­velop new diesels, which are al­ready be­ing used in its E-Class sedans. THE HOME TEAM In­creas­ingly, car­mak­ers are find­ing other ways to un­veil new mod­els than auto shows and that has become even more ev­i­dent ahead of this year’s show. Volk­swa­gen’s Porsche brand showed off its new Cayenne SUV at an ex­trav­a­gant event Aug. 29 with the Bo­hemian Sym­phony Orches­tra Prague and dancers livestreamed from its home base in StuttgartZuf­fen­hausen. Au­tomak­ers skip­ping the show this year in­clude Fiat Chrysler’s name­sake Fiat and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands, Peu­geot and its DS lux­ury divi­sion, plus Nis­san, In­finiti and Volvo.

Yet the Frankfurt show re­mains a very big deal for the home team: Daim­ler AG’s Mercedes-Benz lux­ury brand, Mu­nich-based BMW AG, and Volk­swa­gen, all of which will have gi­ant dis­play stands. Some 1,000 ex­hibitors will show off 300 pre­mieres on 200,000 square me­ters of space.

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