Japanese clean diesels getting closer

More signs that Japanese car makers are ramping up there clean diesel efforts. Nissan today announced it will launch a new, clean diesel version of its X-Trail crossover SUV next year in Japan based on an engine co-developed with alliance-partner Renault. The X-Trail, sold in Canada, has never been on sale in the U.S. but is a solid performer in Japan and should help put clean diesels on the map in a country where, like the U.S. few diesels are sold.

In a separate announcement Nissan also said it has also developed a diesel capable of meeting California’s standards for super-ultra-low emission vehicles (SULEVs). That’s a filip for CEO Carlos Ghosn who has promised clean diesels for the U.S. by 2010.

Not to be outdone, the Nihon Keizai, Japan’s biggest business paper, reports Honda is thinking about widening its diesel plans to include the Acura range. Honda said last year that it will launch clean diesels in the U.S. from 2009. That’s part of a wider plan to tweak its hybrid strategy. It now plans to focus on hybrids for smaller models, and diesels for larger models, including the next-gen Accords, CR-V crossover sport-utility vehicles, and Odyssey minivans, where the cost benefit is most marked.

Toyota, though, remains quiet on its diesel plans. Indeed, while it builds diesels at a plant in Poland for use in Europe, it’s yet to announce plans for engines that will meet the tougher NOx emissions requirements in the U.S. or Japan. Rather than not having the tech know-how, though, it’s more likely because Toyota sees green diesels as a threat to its hybrids.

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