Automakers such as Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Mercedes-Benz (DAI) have predicted for years that a technology called "clean diesel" would overcome many Americans' antipathy to a fuel still often thought of as the smelly stuff that powers tractor trailers. Diesel vehicles now hitting the market with pollution-fighting technology are as clean or cleaner than gasoline and at least 30% more fuel-efficient.
Yet while half of all cars sold in Europe last year ran on diesel, the U.S. market remains relatively unfriendly to the fuel. Taxes aimed at commercial trucks mean diesel costs anywhere from 40 cents to $1 more per gallon than gasoline. Add to this the success of the Toyota Prius, and you can see why only 3% of cars in the U.S. use diesel. "Americans see hybrids as the darling," says Global Insight auto analyst Philip Gott, "and diesel as old-tech."
None of this is stopping European and Japanese automakers, which are betting they can jump-start the U.S. market with new diesel models. Mercedes-Benz by next year will have three cars it markets as "BlueTec." Even Nissan (NSANY) and Honda, which long opposed building diesel cars in Europe, plan to introduce them in the U.S. in 2010. But Ford, whose Fiesta ECOnetic compares favorably with European diesels, can't make a business case for bringing the car to the U.S.
Then read some of the comments like this one.
September 9, 2008 07:22 PM
I drive a 1996 VW Passat TDI with a 5-speed manual trans and I get 52 mpg hiway and 46-47 in mixed hiway-stop&go driving. I specifically wanted a 95/96/97 Passat TDI because while all Passats have a fuel tank which is calibrated to 18 gal. the tank of those model year actually holds 25 gal. I bought the car with 147,000 on ebay two years ago for about $5,000 more than book value and it now has 200,000 mi. I drive about 600 miles a week mostly to flea markets; I'm retired.
My 29-year-old son now has a 2006 Jetta TDI and gets almost as good fuel economy; almost as good because his engine isn't yet fully broken-in with less than 50,000 miles on it!