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Mercedes-Benz Calls Its "Green" Tech "Blue"

three new Mercedes-Benz dieselsMercedes-Benz is somewhat confusingly giving "blue" names to a number of dissimilar "green" engines. The names are similar to the company's BlueTec diesels, but some of those engines aren't diesels at all, in spite of the similar name.

"Blue is the new green," said Thomas Ruhl, director of development for the R-Class, SUV hybrids and BlueTec, at a press introduction in Manchester, Vt. Mercedes-Benz spokesman Rob Moran said the "blue" name is meant to suggest cleaner air, as in blue sky. Mercedes-Benz is adding several fuel-efficient models. This fall, Mercedes-Benz will introduce three new diesel models, the R320 BlueTec, the ML320 BlueTec and the GL320 BlueTec, which all share a 210-hp, 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6 engine. Those truck models join the diesel-powered E320 BlueTec sedan, which has been in the lineup since last fall.

Diesels now account for around 5 percent of U.S. sales for Mercedes-Benz. After the last fuel crisis, when diesel fuel was cheaper than gas, diesels accounted for about 80 percent of U.S. sales for Mercedes-Benz.

What's new today is that all four Mercedes-Benz diesel models can be sold in all 50 states. California, New York and six other states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) have tougher emissions rules than federal standards. That meant diesel passenger cars couldn't be sold in those states until now.

Thanks to improved technology and cleaner diesel fuel in the United States, the E320 BlueTec was the first 50-state diesel in more than a decade. Other German automakers employ a similar technology and are rolling out additional diesels this year and next, despite higher prices for diesel fuel.

However, Mercedes-Benz will also call gasoline-electric hybrid versions of its M- and S-Class models to be introduced next year "Blue Hybrid," even though there's no similarity to BlueTec diesels, except for the fact that both get better mileage than a gasoline engine alone.

Not only that, Mercedes-Benz has another hybrid engine in the product-development pipeline that uses a diesel, instead of a gasoline engine, working in tandem with an electric motor. Mercedes-Benz calls that one "BlueTec Hybrid."

Mercedes-Benz has the technical know-how to pull all this off. And it makes some sense to give all these technically dissimilar "green" technologies an overall name that can be used to promote more than one product at a time, cost-effectively.

However, naming them all "Blue"-something risks confusion, and diluting or losing whatever brand equity the BlueTec diesels may have gained so far.

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