Mercedes is First to Bring Diesel Back to California
On the runway at this week's Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek at Smashbox Studios, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) unveiled a version of its E320 BLUETEC, a diesel sedan that will immediately be available in limited numbers to California customers through a special two- year/24,000-mile lease. California's stringent emissions requirements have kept new diesel automobiles models off the California market for the better part of a decade. The new E320 BLUETEC - distinguished as "2007 World Green Car" by an international panel of journalists earlier this year - changes all that.
BLUETEC denotes state-of-the-art engine and exhaust technology which produces the cleanest diesels available on the market today. Utilizing this technology, the V6-powered E320 BLUETEC diesel is able to provide the powerful torque of a large V8 engine with the low fuel consumption of a four-cylinder compact.
"In order to be able to provide the power and economy of diesel technology throughout the world, we had to make the diesel version as clean as the gasoline model. With BLUETEC, nitrogen oxides can be reduced to such an extent that our diesel vehicles will satisfy the strictest emission regulations in the world -- even in the future. This makes Mercedes-Benz the first manufacturer in the world to fully bring all exhaust gas components under control," said Dr. Leopold Mikulic, head of powertrain development at Mercedes-Benz Cars.
Beginning October 15, MBUSA will offer its E320 BLUETEC to customers under a two-year/24,000 mile lease program through Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. The E320 BLUETEC is lease-priced on a par with its gasoline sibling, the E350.
The special limited-mileage lease program is the first step in the company's plans to offer consumers diesel alternatives in all 50 states. MBUSA will offer 50-state diesels across its SUV model lines (M, GL and R- Class) late next year and will continue to add to its alternative powertrain offerings.
According to Tom Cackette, executive director for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), "The E320 is testimony to demanding nothing but the cleanest vehicles for California. Mercedes-Benz has developed a diesel emission control system that results in a car as clean as comparable gasoline vehicles being sold here. This vehicle has shed the reputation of diesel as a dirty technology. And we hope California has shed its anti-diesel reputation by certifying this vehicle as the first diesel passenger car to meet the most stringent smog emission standards in the world."
MBUSA, which has sold diesels here in the United States for 40 years, believes diesels are an ideal solution for today's luxury car buyers because they yield a significant increase in fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance or interior room. The E320 BLUETEC can go nearly 700 highway miles on a single tank of fuel.
"We're breaking new ground here as we pave the way for the return of the diesel to California," said Ernst Lieb, president and CEO of MBUSA. "BLUETEC is the most promising technology for customers who want to get up to 20-40 percent higher fuel efficiency without sacrificing the performance and the driving characteristics they're used to." According to Lieb, the California market plays a critical role in the comeback of the diesel: "In addition to being one of the top automotive markets in the world, California has tremendous influence. We know we have quite a few loyal diesel buyers there who have been waiting for the opportunity to get back into a diesel, but we also want to tap into a new group of buyers who are interested in making their dollar go farther without compromising performance or their personal style."
Beyond their fuel efficiency, from an environmental standpoint, BLUETEC vehicles are the cleanest diesels available in the world today. Since diesels inherently burn less fuel than gasoline vehicles, they also produce significantly lower emissions of carbon dioxide (C02). Also, in BLUETEC vehicles particulate levels are reduced to levels comparable -- or better than -- that of gasoline-powered vehicles. Similarly, NOX emissions are reduced to meet the most stringent exhaust limits in the world.
The California lease program will function as a bridge as MBUSA prepares to begin phasing in 50-state BLUETEC vehicles nationwide starting in 2008. The first step will be the extension of the special lease program to other states which do not currently allow sales of new diesel automobiles in January 2008. Later in 2008, Mercedes will introduce another BLUETEC system on its M-, R- and GL-Class vehicles. This system utilizes AdBlue injection, a process that adds precisely measured quantities of a urea-based solution into the exhaust stream which enhances long-term emissions performance sufficient to meet the stringent BIN 5 standards.