Volkswagen recognized Dr. Rudolf Diesel's concept of the compression-ignition engine with a release recognizing the company's own accomplishments with diesel engine models in the U.S. market, claiming 75 percent of diesel engines currently sold in passenger cars and SUVs are in Volkswagen-brand models. Since introducing the Rabbit diesel in 1977, the company has sold more than one million diesel models in the U.S.

Although VW's diesel accomplishments are impressive, it's far from the only manufacturer that has a long history of diesel innovation. Rudolf Diesel built his first reliably running engine in 1897, but diesels didn't truly take off on a large scale until decades later, in the 1930s, where companies around the world started developing modern, high-speed diesel engines.

Cummins, one of the top industrial engine manufacturers in the U.S. and worldwide, was founded in the early 1930s in Columbus, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, Detroit Diesel was founded in 1937, and produced the widely used 71-series modular two-stroke diesel, offered in everything from a single-cylinder stationary generator, up to a massive V-24 for marine use. Isuzu also got into the diesel business in the late 1930s, and Hino, today a part of the Toyota family, broke off from Isuzu, then known as Tokyo Automobile Industries, in 1942. Mercedes-Benz made its first diesel passenger car, the 260D in 1936. Mercedes later introduced its first direct-injected truck diesel, the 5.7-liter I-6 OM352 in 1964.

Today, diesels are the engines of choice in Europe, and other markets where fuel efficiency is a high priority, and where governments subsidize diesel fuel for its lower CO2 emissions relative to gasoline. Diesel engines continue to play a critical role in automakers' product plans as fuel economy standards continue to increase.

Source: Volkswagen