Diesels on display in Frankfurt show despite scandal
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.