Jamaica automobile dealers are to meet with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica to discuss the poor quality of domestic diesel which is damaging some engines and prohibiting the import of some models of vehicles.
Kent Lacroix, chairman of the Jamaica Automobile Dealers Association, said the PCJ confirmed the meeting following year-long discussions with the state-owned company. The poor quality of diesel fuel is due to the high sulphur content, which is currently 2,000 parts per million as against 50 parts per million in the European Union.
According to Dr. Raymond Wright, a consultant and former PCJ group managing director, Jamaica will not reach EU sulphur levels until early 2009 when the Petrojam Oil Refinery, a subsidiary of the PCJ, is upgraded.
Juergen Deforth, general manager of Audi Latin America and the Caribbean, told The Gleaner earlier this month that poor diesel quality in Jamaica means some automobile models, manufactured by Audi, are withheld from Jamaica.
“The fuel is a problem because modern diesel engines which use the common rail injection system are damaged by high sulphur, low quality fuel,” said Mr. Lacroix. Specifically affected are more efficient digital fuel pumps which are part of this system.
“It depends on the engine, some of the engines prefer or require to use a low sulphur to run more efficiently. There are some models such as the Land Rover which have been designed for the global market (and higher sulphur levels) which due to the specification of their engines means they can operate with higher sulphur diesel than here,” said Dr. Wright.
Richard Stewart, Chairman of Stewarts Auto Sales, said his company would be importing a diesel model Suzuki this weekend to test with local fuel. He said that few Suzuki diesels have been sold in Jamaica so far.
“For the average man unless you are driving a very long commute and have a high mileage the added expense of buying a diesel vehicle may not be justified because you might just spend a long time in heavy traffic,” said Mr. Stewart.
He said that a diesel Suzuki costs US$2,650 more than a gasoline model.
The PCJ has promoted the adoption of diesel vehicles, since it claims they are 40-45 per cent more fuel efficient than gasoline vehicles. Dr. Wright said diesel vehicles currently make up 17 per cent of imports, which the PCJ wants to double in the next four years.