TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- Honda Motor Co. said recently it is considering introducing vehicles with advanced diesel engines in Japan despite the relative unpopularity of diesel cars in the world's third largest auto market.
Honda hopes the cleaner diesel engine could help it clear Japan's stricter gas emissions regulations. But whether demand for diesel vehicles will grow is the main roadblock for the launch, a Honda spokesman said.
Japan plans to require automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles about 20 percent by March 2016.
Diesel vehicles generally achieve about 30 percent better fuel economy than comparable gasoline-powered cars.
But only 0.1 percent of passenger cars sold in 2006 in Japan were diesel as few models were available and many Japanese consumers still see them as being dirty and noisy.
Among local rivals, Nissan Motor Co. plans to launch cleaner diesel cars in Japan from fiscal 2010. Toyota Motor Corp., which has been marketing its gasoline-electric hybrid cars, currently has no plan to roll out diesel vehicles in the domestic market.
The Nikkei reported that Honda plans to roll out passenger vehicles with low-pollution, fuel-efficient diesel engines in the domestic market by 2009. But the Honda spokesman denied the report.
Last year, Honda said it plans to bring cars with the new cleaner diesel engine to the U.S. by 2009. But the company hasn't decided whether it will roll out the engine for the domestic market, the spokesman said.