Diesel cars are returning to the Japanese market after Tokyo’s governor banned many of these from the city 13 years ago. Automakers have come up with innovations that enable diesel technology to let go of its sooty reputation. Mazda Motor Corp. is one of those who are relying more heavily on cleaner diesels, competing with imports and hybrids as government incentives increase the demand for frugal vehicles.
The new cars will go up against SUVs from Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motor Corp. and models that BMW and Daimler get from Europe, where half of new cars are powered by a diesel engine and where diesels are offered by most automakers, which include Japanese automakers. Diesel motors have become quieter and much cleaner than in 1999 due to being now equipped with improved filters, turbochargers and fuel injection.
It can be recalled that in 1999, Gov. Shintaro Ishihara moved to ban them from the city and so he displayed a bottle of black soot. Atsuo Ito, an advertising executive who bought a new Mazda Diesel CX-5 crossover, said that aside from now driving around a car that’s quiet and clean, his monthly fuel expenses have been cut in half.
This year, the national government presented subsidies of up to 180,000 yen ($2,200) for diesels. The government hopes that by 2020, 5% of new passenger vehicles will use the technology, from only being at 0.4% last year. The Japan Automotive Dealers Association said that as of October, diesel sales had tripled from last year to 31,425 units in Japan.