Text and photos by Cheryl Tay
The stereotype about diesel vehicles is that they are dirty, noisy and smelly and while there may be some truth in there, modern diesel technology is no longer associated with that typecast.
Speaking with Thomas Lim, the managing director of diesel engine specialist AutoDiesel Turbo Fuel Systems Pte Ltd, he shared with us how diesel technology has evolved in the last five years.
“It is true that diesel technology used to be very dirty and was limited to prime movers, industrial machinery and commercial vehicles like buses, cranes, trucks and lorries. In fact, it was not the most pleasant trade to be in hence in the past my father was reluctant to let me help out with the business,” said the 32-year-old who runs the main show these days.
He added, “The technology has progressed much though, and the modern diesel engine has become a clean-burning one. In fact, a Euro IV-compliant diesel engine is cleaner than a similar petrol engine of the same size. In Europe they are already at Euro V standards, which are even cleaner. Vehicle diagnostics used to be for petrol engines only, but we started performing it on diesel engines four years ago.”
AutoDiesel Turbo Fuel Systems Pte Ltd was established in 1983 by Thomas’ father Lim Tai Soon, but the elder Lim only allowed his son to help out with the business two decades later in 2003. Today, Thomas’ mother and younger brother Jason Lim is also helping out with the business; the only one in the immediate family not involved is his sister.
“I wanted my son to focus on his studies first (Thomas was pursuing a computer programming degree in university overseas) before doing anything with the business. Now I’m glad that both my sons are handling it so I can slowly and gradually retire and leave it in their hands,” said the 56-year-old who decided to start a diesel workshop way back in the early eighties because of his love for tinkering with mechanical work.
Shortly after he started, automotive systems and components supplier Denso appointed them as the sole authorised service centre in Singapore. Now, AutoDiesel Turbo Fuel Systems Pte Ltd is the regional repair centre for Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam and soon Malaysia. Locally, they cater to customers like Woodlands Transport, SMRT, Borneo Motors and Comfort DelGro.
Upgrading from a service industry to a manufacturing one, AutoDiesel Turbo Fuel Systems Pte Ltd will be expanding when their 7,000 square-feet factory at Woodlands opens in July later this year. This new facility costs $1.5 million just to be constructed, not including another $600,000 on new and sophisticated diesel injector repair technology and machinery.
Mr. Lim is slowly phasing out to let Thomas fully take over, but is still in charge of the conventional diesel technology. While Thomas was the one who spearheaded the new modern diesel technology in 2006, it is currently managed by Jason while Thomas takes care of the business management side.
“I honestly never thought I would be doing this as my father was so adamant on not letting me help out since young. I never found diesel technology smelly and I used to do hands-on repair too,” Thomas told Best Car Singapore.
In Singapore, we have seen diesel passenger cars pushed forward, especially by German car manufacturers like Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but the trend of diesel cars has failed to surface.
Elsewhere in the world however, in Europe and even in other parts of Asia, diesel cars can be found everywhere on the road. Diesel cars are actually good for the environment, being fuel-efficient and more reliable, but the high diesel tax here in Singapore discourages private ownership of diesel cars.
“If the government is willing to lower the price of diesel road tax then that might attract more people to turn to diesel cars. Cost savings for a diesel car is definitely more significant in terms of fuel costs for example so it is a pity that the benefits of diesel technology are not being experienced,” Thomas said.
*This was first published in Best Car Singapore.