U.S. automakers bet on diesel trucks after VW scandal

U.S. automakers are unveiling new diesel pickup trucks even as diesel sales have fallen sharply since Volkswagen AG's (OTC:VLKAY) 2015 diesel emissions scandal.

General Motors Co (NYSE:GM) said at the Detroit auto show it would offer a diesel 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and now offers diesel versions of its Equinox, Cruze, Colorado, Express and medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

GM product chief Mark Reuss said the automaker did not create the diesel crisis and know how to comply with diesel emissions requirements. "We know how to do it, we know how to do it very well. There's big value there but you've got to get it right," he told reporters at an auto show event Saturday.

Overall U.S. light-duty diesel sales fell 19 percent in 2017 to 94,810, according to hybridcars.com, and accounted for less than 1 percent of U.S. vehicle sales. Nearly half of U.S. diesel sales were Ford Transit diesel vans.

Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F) plans this spring to offer a diesel engine version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck. Ford executives said they expect the F-150 diesel model with a 10-speed transmission to achieve 30 miles per gallon highway fuel efficiency, a level comparable to some midsize cars.

Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU) in 2013 offered a diesel engine in its light duty Ram pickup models and claiming best-in-class fuel economy.

There has been growing scrutiny of diesel vehicles in the United States since Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software on diesel U.S. vehicles that allowed them to emit excess emissions.

Last year, the Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler, accusing it of illegally using software to bypass emission controls in 104,000 diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks sold since 2014. In July, Fiat Chrysler won approval from federal and California regulators to sell 2017 diesel vehicles. It also faces suits from diesel vehicle owners.

Volkswagen North America chief Hinrich Woebcken on Sunday reiterated it will not resume U.S. diesel sales after halting sales in September 2015. "We definitely pulled the plug for diesels here in this country," he said.

In May, German automaker Daimler AG dropped plans to seek U.S. approval to sell 2017 Mercedes-Benz U.S. diesel models. The company disclosed earlier investigations by authorities of diesel emissions could lead to significant penalties and recalls.