Toyota just can't seem to make its mind up about whether diesel engines are a good option for its passenger vehicles or not (just take a look at the related articles linked to below). The fuel economy of diesels is not an issue. The technical viability of diesel engines is without question. The performance characteristics pose no problems. The stumbling block for the soon-to-be world's number one car manufacturer is price. Specifically, the cost of meeting the new clean-air rules in the United States that will be the strictest diesel emissions regulations in the world.

Reuters is reporting that Toyota Motor Corp.'s top engineer, Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees Toyota's research and development, said on Monday at the Detroit Auto Show, "I won't deny that we won't be offering a diesel in the United States some time in the future. But right now we think hybrids are much more cost competitive."

Honda and Nissan, Toyota's main Japanese competitors, have committed to bring clean diesel models to the U.S. by the end of the decade. Toyota, which has been quick to capitalise on hybrids but slow to jump on the diesel bandwagon, is hoping that its agreement with Japanese truck maker Isuzu Motors in November will give it a jump start. But it now seems that Toyota may not pursue a diesel strategy in the short term while plug-in hybrids are the flavour of the month.

Concerns remain throughout the automotive industry that current battery technology may not be up to the task for mass commercialisation due to weight and storage capacity issues. These technical hurdles for battery technology could give diesels a few more good years yet. Hopefully, the story we ran in November about Toyota combining its Synergy hybrid drive system with diesel engines will come to pass, giving us the best of both worlds - diesel's economy at constant, high speed, and electric's efficiency in stop and go traffic.

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[Source: Rueters via Motorauthority.com]

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