Auto Service World
News   March 8, 2004   by Auto Service World

Bosch Adding Fuel To Diesel Argument

Global automotive supplier Robert Bosch has long touted support for diesel’s advantages, but it has vowed to make a strong push this year to convince U.S. automakers of the engine technology’s advantages that much of the rest of the world already know.
According to an article in Automotive News, Robert Bosch says it will make a big one-year push to convince U.S. automakers that its diesel technology can meet tougher 2007 U.S. emissions standards. Senior Bosch executives are tightly focused on the effort and research spending has shifted even more toward cutting emissions. If Bosch succeeds, demand for diesels might eventually reach 20 percent in the world’s largest auto market within 10 years, said Bernd Bohr, head of Bosch’s automotive business.
If not, hybrid technology led by the Japanese may become the primary alternative to gasoline engines in U.S. clean-air efforts.
U.S. automakers want a guarantee that Bosch can successfully meet the 2007 U.S. air-quality standards. After the well-publicized failure of earlier diesels in the U.S.–U.S. automakers attempted unsuccessfully to adapt truck-based engines–automakers are wary of the potential for another flop.
Bohr believes the impending new rules give it a 12-month window of opportunity to make diesel viable in the U.S. market.
“Our progress is so good we are fundamentally convinced that we can exceed the U.S. norms,” he said.
There is plenty at stake. For Bosch and other European suppliers active in diesel technology, the U.S. market is a great opportunity. Bosch derived 7 billion Euros of its 23.5 billion Euros in 2003 sales from diesel operations.
Bosch has 3,500 research and development staff working on diesels, and a third of the company’s 2,748 registered patents in 2003 were in diesel technology. The key to Bosch’s effort is convincing major automakers to design the engine bays of vehicles that will be launched after 2006 to contain diesel motors.
If automakers are convinced future potential is 20 percent of use, they will design engine bays for diesels. At 5 percent or less, few vehicles would be designed for diesels.
The outcome may determine whether diesels or hybrids become the dominant alternative powertrain. European carmakers are increasingly committed to diesels as their green technology, while Japanese automakers are backing gasoline-electric hybrid technology. America is the swing vote for global technology dominance.
Hybrids have won buyers in California, America’s largest single market. Built mainly by Toyota and Honda, hybrids are becoming the vehicles of choice of the environmentally conscious in the U.S.A.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang Chur, head of automotive marketing at Bosch, said U.S. driving styles and vehicles are ideally suited for diesel use.
Americans like lots of torque and drive long distances in heavy vehicles–demands where diesels excel.
In Europe, diesel had a 15 percent share just 10 years ago, but by 2003 diesels’ share was almost 44 percent. Bosch expects them to reach 50 percent by 2006. In the U.S., light vehicle diesel use is negligible.
Bosch also sees opportunities for diesels in China, where the government is concerned about long-term fuel economy. But Japan is a lost cause, said Bosch executives, because the stop-go pattern of traffic and emphasis on comfort does not play to diesel strengths. Hybrid technologies and more efficient gasoline engines are expected to become the preferred solution in Japan.