MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation (MMC) will slash investment into next-generation diesel engines from 2020, with the company’s chief operating officer Trevor Mann admitting that the fuel type is “probably” on the way out.
Speaking with Australian journalists at an event in Sydney last week, Mr Mann further admitted that it is not a matter of if the diesel engine would survive but rather “the question is when” it will be killed off.
This is despite the fuel type still being seen as useful in SUVs and utes – a Mitsubishi specialty – without a like-for-like replacement.
“This is the dilemma for the industry because what’s driving the diesel death is the cost to achieve the emissions,” he explained.
“When you try to achieve Euro 5 and Euro 6 (emissions standards) the amount of investment that you have to put into the vehicle becomes prohibitive.
“Is it (diesel) going to die tomorrow or the next three years? Probably not. But I think that we will start to see an erosion from a (development) cost point of view as much as it’s being driven by the emissions.”
Asked whether MMC – in its role as a new Renault-Nissan Alliance partner – would reduce its investment in the diesel engine after 2020, Mr Mann replied: “Certainly.
“And if you look at the manufacturers who are big in terms of diesel currently, you’re already seeing that (reduced investment),” he added.
“I think that you’ll see a lot of the manufacturers, I wouldn’t say stopping, but they’ll certainly be curtailing their diesel investment.”
Part of the appeal of Mitsubishi being bought by the Renault-Nissan Alliance is its specialty in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) space, with the Outlander PHEV being one of the most successful examples of the breed globally.
Where Renault and Nissan have focused on pure EV models such as the Zoe and Leaf respectively, Mr Mann said he believed that hybridisation could help the diesel survive longer, particularly in rugged applications where he suggested petrol engines were still not able to achieve the driveability characteristics of diesel.
“You have (also) got the emissions and anti-diesel people going around, but then you have to ask what the alternative is,” he continued.
“To get the same torque and driving performance, you’ve got to need quite a big petrol engine to replace a diesel and most manufacturers don’t make large petrol engines any longer.
“And then you say the only other alternative is an electric motor where you can get the same or more torque from an electric motor, but then you have the all-electric discussion, the all-electric range and the (lack of) infrastructure.
“So I think that hybrids can play a part. Certainly plug-in hybrids on bigger vehicles you’ll start to see more of coming in.”
Mitsubishi last year revealed its GT-PHEV concept, a large SUV precursor to a possible production model complete with a petrol-electric drivetrain to provide diesel-rivalling torque with fewer emissions.
Mr Mann said that although MMC would hand down a report to the media in October this year outlining its mid-term product plans, communication of any new diesel engine would be “an Alliance announcement” for a later date.
“What we’ll be doing will be deciding what the (Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi) Alliance engines will be,” he continued.
“There will be some Mitsubishi engines that will become Alliance engines. That’ s the thing that we are going through. I don’t think that we’ll say that there won’t be diesel engines for the Alliance because obviously there’s a demand and requirement for diesel engines.
“(But) what we would do is see which is the best – we could be talking about powertrains, we could (also) be talking about platforms and which, technically, is the best platform as well as which is the most cost effective.”
Within the Mitsubishi and Nissan line-ups in Australia, the diesel engine is most prolific in the Triton and Navara utes that are also respectively the largest and second-largest sellers within each company’s range.
According to VFACTS May 2017 results, the Triton has achieved 8946 combined 4×2 and 4×4 sales so far this year, ousting the Navara that has tallied 6793 units. The next biggest seller for Mitsubishi was the ASX with 6792 sales, while Nissan’s top-seller has so far this year been the X-Trail notching up 7761 units.
That does not necessarily mean that next-generation versions of each ute will be the same vehicle, however, despite an earlier announcement that Nissan and Mitsubishi would, in future, share an Alliance platform. Nor would the stronger selling of the duo necessarily take a lead role in next-gen development.
“What Mitsubishi wants as its key attributes for its pick-up will be engineered by Mitsubishi,” Mr Mann explained.
“What Nissan wants as its key attributes for its pick-up will be engineered by Nissan and, from a technical point of view, what you normally have is a quality target table at the beginning of (joint) development, and of course you can’t tick all of your boxes. So certain manufacturers see certain things are important because of their customer base.
“Perhaps (Nissan and Mitsubishi could) skew some areas of the design, the size and balance the distribution of size between the compartments of the vehicle based on its own feedback and wants.
“(But) as far as what the customer sees, feels and touches, that will be Mitsubishi.”
Extracted from GoAuto.