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Navara diesel for US...so what?

2014-03-31 15:53

JOINING THE BANDWAGON: Nissan has launched its diesel Navara model in the US. Image: Nissan


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Nissan announced that it would be launching a 4x2 bakkie with a 2.8-litre engine with 149kW/475Nm from its four cylinder engine.... In the US.

Okay, that was pretty standard. What really grabbed my attention was that Nissan claimed it would be 35% more fuel efficient than current V6 options. In my excitement I pulled out the calculator and started working out how far I could get from a 80+65 litre set of tanks if my fuel economy dropped right down to only six litres/100km...


Visions of driving from Joburg to Chobe on a single tank were rudely interrupted by a bugging sensation at the back of my mind. I opened up the press release again and read it a second time. There was something that I just wasn’t getting about this article - until I realised it was about Nissan trying to launch a diesel Frontier (Navara to us) to the Americans.

Unlike the rest of the civilized world, the US has barely any diesel vehicles, preferring larger petrol engines to get the performance that the rest of us already achieve from our diesels. Intrigued, I did a bit of research as to why the Americans have a fear of diesel engines.

According to popularmechanics.com, back in 1978, in the wake of stricter emissions rules and quite frankly shocking V8’s, General Motors rushed to release Oldsmobiles with diesel engines in the US.

However, in order to save on money, they tried to retain the same 10-bolt pattern and head bolts as their petrol engines on the Oldsmobile diesel. Of course the much higher pressure in the combustion chambers meant that these bolts would break, leak and cause gasket failures.

Granted this was not the only problem that Americans were faced with - their diesel was often contaminated with water, leading to damaged injectors. The final nail in the coffin of the GM Oldsmobile was a class-action lawsuit that saw owners whose said vehicles suffered from engine failure being reimbursed the majority of their money.

While a little extra money and redesigns could have saved the diesel industry in the US, the damage had been done and diesel engines would need to wait 30 years before they would begin to return to the US.

Considering that it is more expensive than petrol in most parts of the world, what’s the big deal with diesel you ask?

For those of you who don’t already drive a diesel truck/bakkie of some kind, diesels are typically around 30% more efficient than a petrol engine (35% in the case of the Nissan Navara diesel), diesel itself is easier and safer to produce than petrol and the engines require services at longer intervals.

In fact the Navara’s diesel engines are so reliable that there is a joke that says that if you are stranded out in the bush the only tools you need to fix a diesel is duct tape and a raw egg. While diesel may produce more CO2 emissions than petrol, by using less diesel per kilometer in comparison to petrol engines, it works out better in the long run.


So, while diesel vehicles may not exactly be a stepping stone to same fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness as hybrids or electric vehicles, they are at least a step in the right direction as diesel vehicles can run on sustainable fuels such as bio diesel or even cooking oil.

Yep, cooking oil.

When Rudolf Diesel originally developed the diesel engine he actually planned on using cooking oil as fuel. Today, if you are brave enough, you can run your diesel engine on used vegetable oil. Another added benefit to the Southern African market is that diesel is far more common than petrol, so if you are travelling around our neighbourhood then refuelling is easier.

So what does this boil down to? Releasing a new diesel Nissan Frontier in the US is nothing new to the rest of the world where diesel Navaras are common, but it does point out that the Americans are starting to wake up to the benefits of the Navara’s powerful and efficient diesel engine.

Besides, it’s always nice to know that we can buy bakkies down here in South Africa that the Americans can’t.

Read more on:    nissan  |  launch  |  united states  |  diesel  |  new model

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