Although the German engineer Rudolf Diesel invented this engine in 1883, it was only used for the first time in a production car in 1936, when it was offered in the Mercedes-Benz 260 D. This vehicle was equipped with a naturally aspirated compression ignition motor with four cylinders, which generated 45 horsepower (33 kilowatts) at 3,200 rpm. It had a relatively low fuel consumption and was able to travel more than 250 miles (400 km) without refueling.

From this starting point, diesel engines began to gain momentum in automobiles, due to their low consumption. During the 1980s, diesels gained turbochargers, increasing significantly their performance and efficiency. Nowadays, diesel is a dirty word, but some automakers still believe in this technology and invest millions of dollars into its development.