Frankfurt auto show: Diesels improve, but will people buy?

FRANKFURT, Germany — German automakers say they have new and improved diesels that meet or beat ever-tightening emissions standards. But will consumers buy them the way they used to in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal and threats of diesel bans?

Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW stressed their low-emission credentials at the Frankfurt auto show this week, displaying battery-powered cars ranging from an electric version of Daimler's tiny Smart fortwo to BWM's big and powerful i Vision Dynamics.

That is no surprise given the cloud over diesel technology that has grown since Volkswagen admitted to rigging diesel cars to evade U.S. emission testing. That was worsened by the discovery that other carmakers in Europe had exploited legal loopholes to turn off emissions controls much of the time — so that real-world driving emissions were much higher than test results.

Yet carmakers insist that diesel will continue to play a role. Experts say they may be right.

One reason stands out: regulators' efforts, particularly in Europe, to tighten emissions levels of carbon dioxide to fight global warming.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, speaking as president of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, said Wednesday that diesel engines, which emit less CO2 than gasoline ones, would remain key to that effort.

"The latest generation of diesel vehicles is a very effective lever to achieve climate goals in the near future, because they emit 15-20 percent less CO2 than equivalent petrol vehicles," Zetsche said.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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