In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, diesel's image has been tarnished. But Mercedes believes the fuel will be useful for many years
Andrew Frankel Autocar
29 September 2016

Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche believes it would be "absolutely stupid" for diesel-powered cars to be allowed to die out in the wake of the emissions scandal, Autocar has learned in Paris.

"As we are proving with our new family of diesel engines, these can be as clean as gasoline engines with an on-going built-in advantage of around 15% lower CO2 emissions," he said.

"This continues to be a key issue even though at this moment in time everyone is talking about NOx. We are seeing a highly emotional, political and illogical kind of discussion, but when you look at the facts and the technological potential, it would be absolutely stupid to forego the potential that diesel provides."

Nor, said Zetsche, is demand for diesel showing any sign of abating among premium brands untouched by the Dieselgate saga. He said, somewhat caustically: "Beyond the politicians and media, the customer has some relevance in markets as well and neither BMW nor Mercedes-Benz has seen one basis point change in the take rate for diesel in Europe over the last year. We are convinced that we will continue to offer from both a customer benefit and an environmental point of view a good choice of diesel engines on an on-going basis."

When asked how long he envisaged diesel engines surviving, Zetsche replied: "Exactly as long as gasoline engines."

Zetsche also confirmed that, despite the warm reception afforded to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept car, there are no plans for Maybach to produce stand-alone vehicles of its own in the same way as its sister sub-brand AMG has been able to do. "We were there before and found out that volumes for a stand-alone Maybach are pretty limited," he said. "Redefined as a sub-brand with increased integration with the mother brand Mercedes-Benz yet still sufficiently differentiated to provide exclusivity has proven to be an absolute formula for success."

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As evidence of this, Zetsche cited that, two years after its introduction, Mercedes still sells 500 Maybachs every month in China alone, every one selling for a premium "which is pretty unheard of".

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29 September 2016
Well you would say that, wouldn't you, Herr Zetsche? What I would like to know is how new generation Diesel engines will avoid the dramatic fall in environmental performance after only a few years' use? We've all seen relatively new diesels belching out clouds of fumes, and it turns out it is something to worry about.

29 September 2016
Relatively new diesels have particulate filters and don't belch out clouds of smoke unless somebody has removed the filter.
In any case it's not just the visible smoke, produced by relatively large particulates, that you need worry about. Smaller particulates are thought to be implicated in cancer at least as much, if not more, than the larger ones. Bad news is that petrol engines produce these too.

29 September 2016
I like this guy. Of course the NOx vs CO2 is political - all manufacturers know it, even if journalists seem to fail. The EPA and CARB in the US brought in vanishingly low emission levels for NOx a few years back to put the brakes on Euro diesel car sales at the behest of the US motoring and oil lobbies. Whilst belching out huge amounts of greenhouse gases from their own gas guzzlers. At the time, there were even US politicians running around saying global warming via CO2 was a lie invented by militant Greenies. Guess we know who contributed to their campaign funds.

NOx is a function of combustion chamber temperature (not fuel type), but reducing temperature reduces efficiency, which increases C02 contributions. The way around it is is running forced induction engines below boost (and so lower temperatures) during drive cycle testing. Otherwise petrol engines exceed the EPA's NOx levels as well. Whoops.

29 September 2016
Diesel is a good fuel for tractors, I'll give it that.

29 September 2016
The biggest problem with Diesel is that it's hard to regulate the issues. With petrol, where the primary issue is CO2 the amount of CO2 production is in proportion with the consumption. With NOX and other diesel pollutants it depends on real world pollution numbers. The current testing regime is utterly incapable of dealing with this and consumption taxes aren't efficient.

I have no problem with diesel per se - I just have a problem with the pollutants in the real world. The likes of VAG are unfortunately spoiling the party for those who can engineer effective solutions.

29 September 2016
It's all very well meeting the relevant emissions standards but the extra technology to do so is comes at a cost, both financial and potentially in terms of long term reliability.

30 September 2016
Imagine streets without the clattering death-rattle of four pot diesel taxis and vans, and without the deafening din of diesel buses and HGVs. Where everyday vehicles are electric and you can actually hear the pleasant sounds of V8 Mustangs and Triumph Bonnevilles as they go by. What's not to like about that? Maybe Mercedes is on the wrong side of history?

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