Can Diesel Ever Become Fashionable In The U.S.?

Posted by: David Kiley on September 9, 2008

diesel%20pump.jpg There has been overwhelming response to my story this week, “The 65 MPG Ford The U.S. Can’t Have.” The fact that the story has gotten picked up on so many news aggregators, blogs and other sites tells me there is a huge appetite for fuel efficient cars despite the recent drop in oil and gasoline prices. When we do a three column story, there are always nuances and information that get cut for space. So, I wanted to use this blog entry to add some of them to the discussion.

1. A few motor-head blogs challenge whether the ECOnetic Fiesta will really get 65 mpg. Ford says it has tested at 63-65 miles per U.S. gallons. If Ford were to have the car put through the EPA’s paces, it would not likely earn a government certification as high as that on www.fueleconomy.gov. But “real-world” fuel economy, especially for small cars, runs considerably higher than EPA’s official ratings.

2. Two of the biggest enemies of diesel cars catching on are the state taxes on diesel that make it so much more expensive than gasoline these days, and the lack of enough refining capacity, which keeps it in short supply. A national energy policy that specifically addressed those two issues could unleash new interest in clean low-sulfur diesel cars.

3. California, especially keen to regulate CO2 emissions, only recently approved some low-sulfur diesel cars for sale in the state. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI and Mercedes-Benz Bluetec cars are among them. Those cars have pollution traps that have to be maintained. One of the worries of California regulators is that people won’t maintain the traps as they should. The supply of urea in the Mercedes system, for example, required to clean the nitrogen dioxide from the exhaust, is said to be good for 10,000 miles, so it only needs to be refilled at the vehicle’s normal service intervals. Maintaining the system, so owners wouldn’t be lax, can be achieved through a trip switch that won’t allow the car to start if the urea tank is empty. Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI will manages without a urea injection system by using a NOx-storage catalyst. Like the particulate filters in place on this car as well as other diesels, this catalyst is basically a trap that temporarily holds the offensive emissions. Periodically, the engine will switch to an air-fuel mixture that will burn off the material in the traps.

Also, the EPA or Congress could mandate that all 50-states, like New Jersey (to name one state), conduct annual vehicle inspections to keep all cars whose emissions systems are compromised or in disrepair off the road. This also keeps unsafe cars off the road.

4. Critics of diesel say the fuel isn’t offered everywhere, so people won’t buy it. I think that’s hogwash. Every community has stations that pump diesel. Owners of diesel cars and trucks come to know where they are and go to those stations. People aren’t that stupid. On the highways, stations are equipped with diesel pumps to service trucks.

But Kiley! People don’t want to cue up behind tractor trailers to fill their tanks! Also, nonsense. VW has a waiting list for its Jetta TDIs. I’ve done it lots of times. It’s no big deal. And if we put enough crs on the road, the oil companies and gas station owners will follow by installing more diesel pumps that are away from the truck pump.

5. Why won’t Ford make the investment in an engine plant and lead the market? Aside from the fact that Ford is fighting for its life financially, I don’t see other companies building a small-block diesel engine plant in the U.S. either. To make sense financially, my story says that a new engine plant would have to be able to sell 250,000 to 300,000 a year. Ford just can’t make the numbers work to operate such a plant profitably. The diesel engines that go into cars are not the same as those that go into pickups. The best chance for a diesel car engine plant being built for U.S. consumption is if three companies combine on a joint venture plant the way GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW collaborated on the hybrid technology that is going into vehicles from all three companies.

6. When you hear the Bush Administration, the Obama or McCain campaign talk about energy policy and future transportation, you really never hear them talk about diesel. It’s always hybrids and bio fuels. "Diesel" is about as popular a name as Frances Ethel Gumm (Judy Garland’s real name). That’s why VW calls their engine TDI, and Mercedes calls their engine Bluetec. As my story says, “diesel” just sounds low-tech to most people who aren’t familiar with it. It makes you wonder what the Diesel jeans people were thinking.

7. If Honda, Nissan and Hyundai are making moves to try diesel cars out on America, that is a sign that those companies see potential for the technology to catch on. Honda for years resisted making a diesel engine until it came up with a design that met its high green standards. Check out this Honda diesel engine ad from the U.K. If this ad ran in the U.S., it would get a lot of people's attention.

8. In my years of covering the auto industry, I see no actual conspiracy against clean diesel in the U.S., but rather a kind of inertia. Selling it to the American public and resistant regulators will require an effort that involves cooperation among automakers to source engines and pollution control devices in North America and market he benefits of low-sulfur diesel and help by the Federal government to provide more generous tax credits to get the attention of consumers. It would also help if the winner of this year’s election was a gear-head and diesel booster, and used the bully pulpit to drive attention to it. But I’m not holding out much hope of that. Hybrids, electrics and plug-ins are the darlings of the green consumer…except those on the waiting list for VW Jetta TDIs.

Reader Comments

Paul Todd

September 9, 2008 3:09 PM

David:

The response to the original story shows that in addition to strong interest, there is a tremendous lack of knowledge on this subject, and you are missing a golden opportunity to further educate your readers. For example:
1. Diesel prices are related to demand more than taxes. DOE figures show the combined difference in state and federal taxes between gas and diesel is less than 7 cents. http://www.eia.doe.gov/bookshelf/brochures/diesel/index.html
2. European emissions standards are less stringent than those in the US. Economics aside, it is simply illegal to "bring over the Euro-diesels" as many of the commenters demand. Blame the EPA, not Ford. As you say, making the engines US-compliant is techinally demanding, complex, and expensive.
3. As Scott Monty of Ford responded, the price of diesel is likley to rise further as diesel car sales increase, making the economics even more of a gamble. If a car got 25% better mileage than the gas version but the fuel was 35% more expensive, would you still buy one?
You get the idea. Given the interest and ignorance, I'd like to see a full BW story to address the larger questions of why Europe has these cars and we don't.

RichC

September 9, 2008 3:21 PM

You should check out the new 2009 VW TDIs exhaust after-treatment ... its not the Bluetec urea system, so maintaining it isn't a problem. The key difference is its particulate filter. It's similar to the type of system fitted to cars in Europe, but is even more effective at ridding the exhaust of NOx particles and it passes emissions in all 50 states.

Mark

September 9, 2008 7:22 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!

Myothercarisacorvette

September 9, 2008 7:39 PM

Can you say AUDI TDI...
The ALMS LMP1 cars have dominated for years. Gas mileage so good they made them put in smaller gas tanks. Torque numbers so high that no gas engine can pull down the straights with them. (I love ALMS racing - go team Corvette).

Europe is dominated by diesel cars and correct me if I am wrong but I think the number is at least 50% of vehicles are diesel. The difference? -EPA- The agency that forced reformulated gas on the upper midwest with worse power & mileage and now says "never mind, it doesn't work after all".

Diesel and biodiesel should be our future.

We are our own worst enemy.

Fred I. White

September 9, 2008 9:01 PM

It's striking that nobody remembers to mention the '90 Geo Metro XFI. I had one that got 63 mpg twice, measured as carefully as possible.

There's no magic in Diesel; they are barking up the wrong tree. One liter, 3 cylinders, long gears, and keep it light. Anybody can do that.

Scorpion

September 10, 2008 2:05 AM

I'll take my hybrid over your diesel any day. Check out my Prius mileage:

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=50899057&albumID=0&imageID=40974808

uthor

September 10, 2008 2:39 AM

"Maintaining the system, so owners wouldn’t be lax, can be achieved through a trip switch that won’t allow the car to start if the urea tank is empty."

Yeah, that's a good idea. Lets prevent the car from starting over a minor thing and, as a consequence, prevent the owner from actually getting the urea. That'll go over well.

From Kiley: The idea is to give owners some time, but not unlimited time to have the system serviced.

Greg Shay

September 10, 2008 7:56 AM

Americans want the efficient diesel.
Let the market, the buying public decide.
For two years, since driving them in Europe, I have investigated how to get one into the US, even to pay for importation. But there are laws on the books that keep them out.
I would like the sponsorship of a Congress member to get waivers, get some into the US, and let people begin seeing what is available in the rest of the world. The fact that Ford is one of the larger manufacturers of efficient diesel cars (for the European market only) is hypocritical !
Let American consumers decide.
America wants efficient diesels!

Rappa Delight

September 10, 2008 10:12 AM

Not at almost $5 a gallon it wont!

dusan maletic

September 10, 2008 10:17 AM

You forgot one large issue: obsession of the car industry marketing with power numbers in the USA, compounded with the car reviewing journalists. Diesels of the equal work capability typically have significantly lower hp rating (result of their high torque at low rpms characteristics). Car industry is afraid to bring forth new model which is the weakest in the class (ex. Jeep Liberty diesel "needed" engine enlargement before appearing in USA) which is compounded by reviewers who never fail to underscore it with "underpowered" claims (quick demise of Passat TDI in late 1990's despite huge sales, the only negatives were hp unhappy reviewers).

Rob

September 10, 2008 10:19 AM

The '09 Jetta TDI doesn't use a urea injection system... it captures the pollutants and burns them up in a second engine cycle. It doesn't need to be maintained like the Mercedes does.

From Kiley: True. I mis-stated that one, and fixed the blog entry.

Big Dime

September 10, 2008 10:32 AM

Why don't Ford just import Diesel engines from the UK or other european Ford production plants.

Here in the UK, my VW Golf GT TDI 170bhp is a rocket ship and also does 55 miles/UK gallon or 44 miles/US gallon, plus CO2 is much less. UK car tax is changing to be based on CO2 emissions, which would knacker all of the owners of your US-super sized cars for sure.

Oliver

September 10, 2008 11:10 AM

As a European living in the US I am constantly dismayed by the gas guzzling cars I see every day and an article like this could be useful in changing attitudes. However, one of the main reasons you provide for the lack of popularity of diesel (that the price of fuel is higher) is completely irrelevant. The advantage of diesel is the increased MPG, which leads to fuel savings, which outweight the price difference. Diesel is more expensive in Europe as well - to almost exactly the same extent as it here. Using today's average gasoline and diesel prices, I calculate that UK Diesel is 110% the price of unleaded fuel and in the US the figure is 111%. This seems to me statistically irrelevant and should not be used as a main point and definitely not for the banner graphic of your article !

Nick

September 10, 2008 12:00 PM

I hope diesel never catches on. I've been driving cars on waste vegetable oil for the past 4 years (starting Oct. 24, 2004 when gas was under $2) and the last thing I need is a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys out there competing for my oil. I sincerely hope the public never pulls their head out the sand and keeps believing politicians who say, "the technology isn't there yet" for renewable fuels. What do I do with all the money I've saved a. buying a used diesel car and b. on money I would have spent on gas? I put it into my local economy going to restaurants, taking my kids bowling and I even bought myself a new Jimmie Johnson NASCAR cap at Walmart because I had the extra $10 in my pocket and it was on sale! Diesel engines are bad folks. God forbid you ever discover Mazda's rotary engine, Mr. Kiley. Your article might just be relevant in the 21st Century.

gary

September 10, 2008 12:26 PM

Well presented! Diesel also gets all over your hands when pumping so the stations have a supply of plastic gloves. Don't see many "casual greens" actually getting their hands all smelly. There's also the American diesel aversion due to some regretable GM/Ford diesel products in the past.

Anton

September 10, 2008 1:03 PM

David, TDI is Turbocharged Diesel Injection. And Bluetec is only the name for the low sulfur Diesels, not all of Mercedes's Diesels.

Oliver, Diesel is less expensive than Gas in Germany. The price difference has reduced lately, but is still there.

J

September 10, 2008 1:03 PM

Ford has been importing cars from the UK to Mexico for some time. There's no good reason It can't import the ECOnetic Fiesta to the U.S.

Jetta TDI - 45 mpg combined
Dodge Cummins Mega Cab 16 mpg CITY!

dewgirl

September 10, 2008 2:12 PM

Nick, I couldn't have said it any better!

MichaelS

September 10, 2008 2:49 PM

VW/Audi has been using the name TDi for some decades, Ford has TDCi, Mercedes has CDi. Peugeot/Citroen's HDi is the best, cleanest diesel motor.
In Europe diesel for cars shares the same pump columns with gas. One may even mistakenly pump diesel into a gas-only car because of the smaller pump's nose. Diesel for trucks is on separate, often far away, pumps.
If Ford was about to bring diesel cars to US, it would have brought the full range of its cars: the Ka, Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo. Under such circumstance, building a factory producing diesel engines in North America was both feasible and economical viable.

barry

September 10, 2008 3:33 PM

Diesels are the way to go, if fuel wasn't so expensive. My 7500 lb. Dodge truck gets 22 mpg on the highway, 19 going to work and this is not uncommon fuel mileage in heavy pickup trucks. The Mercedes Diesel gets 37 MPG highway and can accelerate to 60 in about 6.5 seconds. That's impressive!

Rob in Madrid

September 10, 2008 3:34 PM

Not sure why but I drove a diesel in Germany for a year before moving to Spain. In Germany I NEVER used gloves to pump diesel but in Spain you need them. don't know why.

Unfortunately if diesel engines ever catch on it will drive up the price of diesel to the point of making it uneconomical.

In Europe gas taxes are so high that diesel can be "subsidised". by lower taxes to encourage sales.

Erik Ievins

September 10, 2008 3:35 PM

"Maintaining the system, so owners wouldn’t be lax, can be achieved through a trip switch that won’t allow the car to start if the urea tank is empty."

While I applaud the goal of good maintenance, I'll bet that technique would be nearly as popular as the seatbelt interlock of 1974.

Anyone remember it? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dictated that all 1974 cars were to be equipped with a switch that refused to allow the starter to energize unless all front seat passengers were belted. The public found the results annoying, to say the least, and many disconnected the systems in an effort to regain freedom of choice. When Federal lawmakers were impacted directly as they tried to drive to work, they joined the revolt... and by August '74, the House of Representatives voted by a rather large margin to repeal the law. For 1975 automobiles, the warning buzzer was again deemed sufficient.

One hopes we would learn from this. :)

Vijay

September 10, 2008 3:35 PM

I have a Jetta TDI (2002), I get 44 MPG with my driving its equal to 55MPG. Anyway I live in New Jersey and almost all the gas stations have Diesel pumps for cars and SUVS (Not in Truck Stops.. even though i don't mind)... Anyway I love my car.. it has 144000 miles on it... but still runs great without any major repairs so far. The last thing i changed after Timing belt (@ 77000 miles) was my breaks ... other than that just Oil change. Diesel engines last longer than Petrol, May be that’s one reason they don't want these engines here in US. and Yes U CANNOT import. I did lot of research before I got this Jetta. I even called BMW (Germany) regarding BMW Diesel... they said they can ship to any other country other than US. I heard the same thing from AUDI USA. Anyway I truly believe that Diesel is the way. For the gentle man who wrote above saying once the diesel market grows the price of diesel goes up is Totally wrong.. In-fact it comes down drastically cos there will be more diesel refineries which are very few now.. that’s one reason why diesel is costly in US than petrol... if u see any other country Diesel is almost 75% cost or half the cost of Petrol. Bottom line is Diesel prices will not go up in-fact they will go down. I commute almost 550 miles per week, the amount of money I’m saving from my petrol cost (from my previous car Audi).. I pay more the half the price of my monthly payments… So guys if u think u r spending a lot on Gas.. Go diesel.. And see the difference.

SF Guy

September 10, 2008 3:57 PM

US Auto Consumers are really - really stupid (keep in mind your dealing with the general public everyone under the sun) Very - very few US auto shoppers actually research and shop for the vehicle that meets their needs. Hence all the SUV's and people that say they are safer - needed for foul weather driving etc.

These are also the same people who would never know they were driving a new diesel unless you told them. Yet they are the first to say Diesel - no way it cost more than gas! Again the same people incapable of doing basic math to see that they would come out ahead with diesel.

The Automakers face a huge challenge educating a very - very stupid US consumer. Then again they tend to believe every thing they see and hear on TV so it could be as easy as a simple add. Though one thing is for sure the first companies to the US market with good Diesel cars will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Richard

September 10, 2008 4:00 PM

The technology IS here and you don't even have to buy the latest GREEN machine to get an advantage at the pumps. This company has been introducing their Hydrogen Assist Fuel Cell Kit ( that will bolt-on to any vehicle ) and guanantees 50% better gas mileage ( then what you vehicle currently gets ) or their distributor will give you your money back ( exactly the same amount of money that you paid for the Kit ). It would be worth your while to check out this article http//bwt.jeffotto.com/sr/slowcivic.php

Jeff

September 10, 2008 4:04 PM

If you drove the GEO Metro XFI you would know why no one remembers it, no one wants to.

Modern turbo diesels have oodles of power. I have yet to find a hill that requires me to down shift out of 5th. You never even have to down shift to pass. Diesels are truley great touring cars. The Civic diesel has a faster 0-60 time then the it's gasser counter part. A Honda with torque, what a concept!

What we really need are hybrid diesels, 90 - 100 mpg should not be terribly difficult using that technology.

As for finding diesel, you have to be truly brain dead if you can't find a station in 650-700 miles, that's the range of my Jetta TDI.

E

September 10, 2008 4:18 PM

I was forced to buy a new vehicle this year for tax purposes. I wanted to buy an E320 Bluetech. However, the IRS tax code forces you to buy a large gas guzzler (pickup or SUV over 8600 GVW)in order to take advantage of the larger tax deductions. I really think the IRS needs to change the rules to favor the higher mileage vehicle with the largest tax deductions, instead of favoring the guzzlers.

Markus

September 10, 2008 4:37 PM

I had a VW Rabbit diesel. My brother had a VW Rabbit diesel. We both got 60 MPG with them. We both melted our glow plugs. They were hard to start in winter, consequently we tried to keep them plugged in [block heater & battery warmer]. I vowed never to drive a diesel again.

I might change my mind if winter starting is addressed on the new diesels.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about a Pontiac Wave...50 MPG hwy!

Filipe Morais

September 10, 2008 5:36 PM

I use in Europe Diesel for many years due to:
- Less expensive fuel (-25%)
- Lower consume (-25%)
leads to almost half cost per kilometre.

On the negative side:
-Higher initial cost of the vehicle (+20%)
So its very cost effective if you travels about 10 000km/year

Almost same as gasoline
- Performance on normal use(on today cars there are no sensible difference)
- Environment impact

So... US change restritive old laws (ours restrictions on diesel has started to change in about 1980)

greg

September 10, 2008 9:47 PM

On a recent trip my big ole chevy duramax diesel got 24mpg on the highway at average speed of 55mph. Nearly 9k lbs to protect my occupants in the crew cab..The car of the future is already here just need the price of diesel to reflect its real savings.........

blackbird

September 10, 2008 11:12 PM

I have found that torque is the answer when it comes to gas mileage regardless if the engine is gas or diesel. If the engine has sufficient torque that the car or truck spends the majority of its time in the taller gears then gas mileage is often better than a smaller engine version of the same car or truck. I have several vehicles the one with the best milage is the 8.3 liter Dodge SRT 10 with the Viper engine (500HP 500 Foot Pounds of Torque)at 22 mpg. I am from the UK but have been living in Canada for thirty years and there are differences such as distances, winter weather, altitude and the size of the loads we tow that make vehicles as small as in Europe impractical. On top of this I feel the main reason for the environmental push is not environment but redistribution of wealth to developing countries, it seems to have been working well for them and the developed west have the job losses to prove it. Sending a check to a developing country to buy a carbon credit does nothing for the environment.

smi2le

September 10, 2008 11:48 PM

Today's San Francisco Chronicle is reporting on the rapid progress being in the development of "clean", cheap, biodiesel fuel.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/10/BURK12R1VB.DTL

Jerry

September 11, 2008 12:35 AM

03 VW Jetta TDI Diesel. Manual 5 spd one of the best yrs made.
Last 3 tanks 58,60, & 59 MPG.
They use emission laws and high diesel
prices to keep the number of these cars
down in this country. And you know who "THEY" are.

E

September 11, 2008 9:34 AM

TDI = Turbo DIRECT Injection, not diesel injection.

Brad

September 11, 2008 11:47 AM

I have read a bunch of articles lately and they all mention how diesel is $0.70 more expensive / gallon vs regular unleaded.

What they always fail to mention is the % increase over Regular. The cost in dollars is irrelevant...% is what is key.

In the USA diesel will run about 20% more than regular unleaded. However, most diesels get 30-40+% better gas mileage...giving a diesel owner 10-20+% lower total fuel cost on a car that is less expensive than a hybrid, which requires less maintenance and offers a higher trade in value.

The new 2009 Jetta (gas) is Certified as 21/29 MPG. The 09 TDI is 29/40 by EPI and 3rd party certified 38/44. This is a 52% improvement over the Jetta gas engine. So with 20% more expensive fuel, a driver will save 32% over the gas Jetta.

This is the big selling point that authors always fail to mention.

Ken Y.

September 11, 2008 12:08 PM

Hybrids are good for city driving, but diesels are much better for highway cruising. Diesels turn a lower RPM at highway speeds and since they get all their torque at a low RPM you are always in the max power band while highway cruising so hills do not require a downshift. Second, hybrids aren't saving any energy. The batteries and electric motors take energy to make and need to be recycled which in turn requires more energy....the source of this energy?....fossil fuels. Same goes for plugin hybrids.....getting power from the grid which is mostly fossil fuels. Another thing about hybrids is that people are afraid to work on them and if you are in an accident emergency response people are afraid to get shocked. There are no free lunches and there is no one solution for everyone. The best thing anyone and everyone can do to lower fuel prices and protect the environment is conserve fuel by altering driving habbits, avoiding unnescessary idling and trips, carpooling, using public transportation, maintaining their vehicle properly and on schedule, etc.

Even if diesel did cost more to run which currently it is not in most cases, it's a more fun vehicle to drive with all the low end torque and they are very nice on the highway. A diesel engine will get typically get 30% better fuel economy....if it is about 20% more than gasoline, there is still a net savings of 10%. Gone are the days of slow, smokey, loud diesels. I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD. It has a 3.0L mercedes V-6 diesel. It is 1 second slower from 0-60 than the 5.7 Hemi gasoline engine and nearly half the size! Plus it get better fuel economy than the smallest v-6 gas engine they offer which is the 3.7L V-6. 3.7 14/19 and CRD 18/22 (EPA numbers). My average fuel economy over 2500 miles is 24.1 mpg. Several tanks over 25mpg. Don't forget that you don't have to stop at the fueling station as often either....I can go over 500 miles on a 22 gallon tank in a 5000+ lb brick of an SUV.

Tony

September 11, 2008 12:57 PM

I wrote letters to governors, President Bush and congress without a reply on this for the last 3.5 years. They run their mouths about being addicted to foreign oil but the US manufacturers don't even sell the fuel efficient diesel models in the USA! Now they are asking for money to cover their retooling! It's a scam. Run a search for the 10 mmost efficient cars in the UK 64.9 MPG is least efficient. We could be there yesterday. How about this....Toyota sells diesel models everywhere but america. The oil politicians are in the block of diesels.

Brian

September 11, 2008 2:40 PM

Scorpion, you need to look at the big picture. Hybrids are not the complete solution.

If you do a lot of highway driving like myself and get the mileage that Mark pointed out. A hybrid offers no value.

Now if all the soccer moms on their stop and go trips to the grocery store, malls, and waiting in school lines drove them, they would be mainly using battery power and not pumping tons of CO2 and wasting gas with their big SUVs.

Don't forget to do a full Life Cycle Cost Analysis of owning a hybrid. Your cost of ownership (maintenance portion)goes up when you factor in expensive battery replacement. This offsets a lot of your fuel savings.

Lastly, if everyone owned a hybrid, we would have the environmental nightmare on our hands of disposing of the old batteries.

Matt

September 11, 2008 4:29 PM

Whoever wrote that diesels were hard to start in the cold... The TDI starts easily in the coldest of weather. I've been in temperatures down to -30F, and my Golf TDI fired right up without even a hiccup.

And just to give everyone an idea about these cars, they have plenty of power, get 45mpg mixed driving, are quiet (the new 2009 Jetta sounds like a gas engine), and start in cold without a problem. Finding diesel has never been a problem, and I've been all over the country in that car. After 172K miles, the only reason I'd like to get rid of it is to get a new one.

mpgomatic

September 11, 2008 6:50 PM

I've been chasing the clean diesel story at MPGomatic.com for over a year now and have test driven a number of Euro diesels. These cars are so sweet, it's a crime that we've been denied for so long.

Now that the engineering work has been done, we can look forward to an influx of clean diesels largely from German automakers. America is behind the ball again, and sadly, it didn't have to be that way.

Volkswagen has announced plans for a new plant here in the States and you can bet that they'll be bolting plenty of diesel engines under those hoods. BTW: Chrysler's been building diesel-engined cars, SUVs, and minivans here in North America for a while ...

http://www.mpgomatic.com/2008/03/15/35-mpg-why-wait-until-2020/

anthony

September 12, 2008 1:48 AM

the 2009 jetta tdi's come with free scheduled maintenance, so thats a non issue.

"Also standard for 2009 is Volkswagen's Carefree Maintenance Program, with this program there are no charges for the scheduled maintenance described in the vehicle's maintenance booklet for the length of the New Vehicle Limited Warranty—three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first."

HW

September 15, 2008 9:20 PM

I've driven nothing but diesels since 1968. On the road, off the road and in the field (farm). Nor have I pulled up to the pump. Instead I've gone straight to the well and save thousands of dollars doing so. Recently, on a stretch of I-94 in MN/ND, I went 208 miles on a measured six gallons of raw well oil in my F 250 4WD truck loaded to app. 7000 lbs. I did have a quarting tail wind and limited speed to 62 mph or the engine to 1750 rpm. For a looksee kindly visit; http://www.iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/05/smoke-em-if-you.html and http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowahawk_blog/sets/72157605131564148/?page=2

Rudolf had a better idea than Mr. otto!

rich

September 16, 2008 9:21 AM

How about an independent small block US diesel manufacturer that sells to all US car companies? I bet CAT or Detroit Diesel or someone could do that.

R.Glenn Reid

September 17, 2008 4:14 PM

How would you like a great looking sports car top end 200 mph zero to 60 in under four seconds.Will do 2,000 miles on one tank of fuel and return 100 mpg on diesel .The Trident Iceni built by Trident Performance vehicles of Norwich.

Goody Smith

September 22, 2008 6:24 PM

Just to point out...the US oil refining capabilities are mainly targeted toward producing gasoline, not diesel.
Therefore, changing our auto market to mostly diesel-based cars would require much more coordination, plus many years and many dollars to make that happen.

FlyerBry

September 22, 2008 9:54 PM

The problem is no US manufacturer has offered a diesel in anything other than a pickup truck (which are typically intended for towing) since the early 80's. The european diesels that are available are either in very expensive offerings (Mercedes) or somewhat smallish for the market (VW) vehicles. Not that these offerings are bad but they aren't exactly mainstream either. The market is just waiting for a modern diesel in a mainstream sedan to open folks eyes. Jeep sold the Liberty with a rather noisy diesel before the fuel was reformulated and it sold very well but the US manufacturers seem to be stuck on the idea that folks won't pay the premium for the diesel option.
My dad had one of the American made diesels in the early 80s which he bought for it's fuel mileage as he traveled for a sales job. It was everything bad that people think about diesels - US manufacturers and automotive writers seem to think people actually remember this but I think that story gets way too much hype. In reality the car we had wasn't that bad. The biggest problem was it sounded like a truck. Modern diesels no longer have this problem. Diesel availability wasn't a problem when we had that diesel in the early 80's nor is it a problem now. Journalists who spread this myth need to check their facts!

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September 25, 2008 2:52 AM

I hope it does become more popular. I want to see more high torque turbo diesel cars.

Chris Terry

September 25, 2008 2:30 PM

Hey Dave --

We have a A5 3.0 TDI six-speed sport package in Farmington Hills from Switzerland. I looks like your readers might enjoy your review of this vehicle.
Would you like it for a week?

Your friends at Honeywell Turbo

terrance

September 28, 2008 3:23 PM

Chris Terry, would you be able to describe how you got the A5 into the states. I have been living in Germany and renting nothing but diesels and would like to get one in to California. Thanks.

Derick

October 1, 2008 12:23 AM

As a new owner of a 2009 Jetta TDI, I did a small write up on my experience. Fun, powerful, and great efficiency.

http://hubpages.com/hub/Jetta-TDI-2009

Hitork

October 2, 2008 11:56 PM

I sold my STS Cadillac in 03 and ordered an 04 Jetta Wagon TDI 5sp. Now with 103,000 miles and a spreadsheet on every fillup, my average mpg is 44mpg and I travel on the interstates at 70+ with all the gas guzzlers.
My 01 Dodge Quad Cab TDI 6sp with 100,000 got 22mpg running around empty. My 05 Dodge TDI 6sp has only 15000 miles and gets 20mpg, it will improve as the engine gets more miles. It is 5 years since my Cadillac and since they will not offer me a diesel, I just bought a low mileage diesel Mercedes. It could have been a Cadillac. My 1980 Cad Seville was sluggish on acceleration but it got 30mpg on the highway 25 years ago! It is stupid that we have federal regulations that keep us from saving 1.4 million barrels of oil daily (per BMW website, if 33% of USA were driving diesel cars.

Peter Armstrong

October 3, 2008 4:19 AM

Diesel is being blocked somewhere but why? friends of gasoline in high places? I have travelled to Europe in UK spring 08 GM family size sedan the Vectra (Aura over here) 1.9 Litre 6 speed manual 42mpg / 35 US gallon France 1.4 Renault Megane 55 mpg at 88 mph brittany to Paris, Italy 1.9 Lite Focus wagon also low 50's with 4 adults & 2 weeks of luggage touring also avg 85 mph / 140kph no problem.(remember these are rentals thue avis & hertz. In France 2007 why can I find a brand new Toyota rav4 with 2.5 litre diesel manual, no torque? hardly 3 men inside and pulling a trailer wirh 3 dirt bikes! Hmmm. regarding other comments its true ford or Toyota sell all over the world with Diesel except Canada or USA? I guess we are just to well educated to drive "euro" 4 cylinder models! General managers directors look at the commuters recently no to many trucks but lots of matrix corolla civic or ford /GM badged korean cars. Diesel seems to be a scriped for a good Conspiracy / spy movie.

Bill

October 7, 2008 4:14 PM

When I was living in Europe I had a Audi A6 1.8L Diesel. It had a 6 speed manual tranny. 0-60 was like a rocket, and the chip would limit the top end to 135mph. This car was much eaiser on the eye than some ugly prius, and it blows most cars off the road. With the 6th gear, the engine pulls about 2k RPM. The car has a 18gal tank, which I would normally get about 850 miles out of. So nothing in the US compares to this.

Slavic

November 26, 2008 3:45 AM

I moved from Europe 10 years ago to USA. Almost all time (15 years) I own diesel cars. 3 years ago I bought 1996 Passat TDI with 135,000 miles on it. It was little scary to me how long more it will last... But now, I can tell you guys: on odometer as of today 330,000 miles and it is my daily driver. I driving everyday at least 200 miles for my work as I am delivery driver. So, it was no magor problems. All inside motor is still original, exept water pump and timing belt. Last year I put new alternator. That it! Original fuel pump, original injectors, original turbocharger, original glow plugs... Even original clutch. Of course I change coupple times brake pads, but it usual... Changing oil every 4,500-5,000 miles.
So, my goal at this point is to drive until 400,000 miles on this car and buy exact same Passat with lower mileage. I love this car because it's get 43-45 MPG and its last like forever.

Gavin U.K

December 19, 2008 4:28 PM

Diesel is the choice of you are covering great distances, one of the many reasons I never understood the American market not taking to it. If more of you guys across the pond start buying diesel, then manufacturers would start producing diesel hybrids. Peugeot/Citroen are working on one at the moment.

As for the Ford Fiesta, I believe it is being modified for your OTT safety laws and will be onsale in the states by 2010.

Adakin Valorem

December 30, 2008 7:47 AM

VW has a 200 mpg diesel hybrid that they claim they will sell as a 2010 model... but only in Europe!

Adakin Valorem

December 30, 2008 7:50 AM

Here's a link about the 200mpg Volks Wagon diesel hybrid:

http://green.yahoo.com/blog/ecogeek/497/vw-will-sell-a-200-mpg-car-in-2010.html

John Hardman

August 16, 2009 5:14 PM

There is no reason for diesel to cost more than gasoline. In fact, it should be the other way around because gas is refined from diesel so diesel fuel must be made first and involves less refining which costs more. Currently in California, diesel costs about 10 cents less per gallon than gas. Also it is easier to make biodiesel fuel than ethanol required for flex fuel cars. My 2009 Jetta TDI is clean, frugal,and fast. I like it much better than my wife's Honda Civic hybrid and the mileage is about the same.

UX-admin

August 25, 2009 5:07 PM

"To make sense financially, my story says that a new engine plant would have to be able to sell 250,000 to 300,000 a year. Ford just can’t make the numbers work to operate such a plant profitably. The diesel engines that go into cars are not the same as those that go into pickups."

Ford does not have to make a passenger car diesel engine, because it already has one.

Ford owns Mazda, and Mazda has a 2.0L, 140 HP DITD (direct injection turbo diesel) engine, one of the most modern on the market.

How do I know this? I currently have one, in Europe, in storage! A 2004 Mazda 6 station wagon, turbo diesel!

Ford also makes the Ford Mondeo station wagon and sedan and sells them in Europe, and they are based off of the Mazda 6 CD platform; it's exactly the same car, only Ford-uglified. With a diesel engine. For both models.

Mazda also sells the newest generation Mazda 6 as a station wagon with a manual transmission and the next generation DITD turbo diesel engine, in Europe. The same vehicle is not available here in the United States.

My "old" 2004 Mazda 6 station wagon gets roughly 40MPG, and tops out at 140MPH; the cruise range is almost 600 miles with 55L of diesel.

Point: Ford DOES have diesel engines for passenger cars, because Ford owns Mazda, and Mazda makes those engines. Very modern engines. Which Ford is not selling in the United States.

Why don't you ask Ford executives about it?

Norman Silva

September 26, 2009 7:19 PM

Economy is not the only reason to own a diesel - driving pleasure is one of the others - namely torque - besides an engine that will last a lifetime.

If any of you haven't ever driven a diesel sedan, do yourself a favor and go for drive - a Jetta, Passat, BMW, Mercedes - you'll never be the same again.

Think Audi and Peugeot at Le Mans - beating everything in sight and setting new records at each outing.

Check out the BMW 535D - it knocks spots off any gasoline equivalent.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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