Diesels on display at Frankfurt auto show despite scandal
Notwithstanding the scandals, recalls and threats of bans, the world's biggest automakers are set to unveil new diesel models at this year's auto show in Frankfurt.
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.
The Frankfurt International Motor Show opens for journalists today, Tuesday, and Wednesday and to the general public from Saturday through to September 24.
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 everyday driving, often by exploiting legal loopholes that permitted them to turn off controls at certain temperatures.
German carmakers are recalling some five 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 battery-powered cars.
electric compact car
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 vapour. 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.
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 gasolene painfully expensive. A litre of gasolene costs €1.31 in Frankfurt, or US$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 gasolene engines to choose from - and three diesels. Automakers "won't be shouting about it, but diesels will be part of their line-up," says Ian Fletcher, principal analyst at IHS Market.
IHS estimates diesel's market share will fall from 49.7 per cent in Europe to 46.9 per cent this year, and to 32.8 per cent by 2025.
Mercedes-Benz spent €3 billion to develop new diesels, which are already being used in its E-Class sedans.