Kia Asks Customers If They Want a Diesel-Powered Optima Sedan in U.S.

By Jacob Brown | May 17, 2012
When we journalist folk are gathered up at meetings before getting to drive new cars, there's inevitably some louse in the back of the room who will raise his hand and ask if the automaker will eventually offer a diesel engine/manual transmission/cool feature available in European cars or some other far-fetched feature unavailable in the U.S. The answer most often turns out to be some tapdance around saying the word "No" or simply that word: No. But that's not the case in Kia's camp. posted an article discussing the 1.7-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine the automaker sells in Europe in its 2012 Kia Optima midsize sedan. That engine musters only 134 horsepower but makes up for it with 244 lb-ft of torque, a pretty big number for such a little engine. But that's not why people buy diesels; that would be fuel economy. The diesel-powered Kia Optima is good for nearly 40 mpg in U.S. gallons on the European combined cycle. For comparison's sake, the standard, non-turbo Optima gets a combined score of 28 mpg, while the Optima Hybrid gets 37 mpg. Kia Motors Public Relations asked its Facebook fans if they'd drive one, of which there's now a long list of affirmatives. That's to be expected with the whinnying fanboys of diesels in the U.S. who feel they've been slighted for the last 20 years after U.S. automakers scarred a stigma of unreliability into the buying masses. Usually an automaker would brush off diesel engine wishes, but there's a chance Kia's PR team could be sending out a feeler for whether the automaker should bring over its oil burner Optima to the U.S. Or it could be Kia just messing with its U.S. constituency. There are a few points for and against Kia bringing a diesel engine to the U.S., including the automaker's current inability to satisfy demand with the Optima as it is, the fact that it already sells an Optima Hybrid, and the fact that diesel engines are expensive to produce. But speaking with Kia's vice president of marketing and communications, Michael Sprague, earlier this year, he said the automaker will be drawing from international plants to meet some of its demand for U.S.-bound Optimas 2013, as its Georgia facility is at capacity. Those plants also build Kia Optima sedans with diesel engines, making the idea all the more feasible. Source: Kia Motors Public Relations via Facebook

With the constant see-saw of gasoline prices, why not introduce a diesel Kia as an alternative to see if there is enough disgust at the pump to make diesel competitive? It's an investment that Kia might find very profitable.