Would YOU Buy A Diesel?

imagesWhen gasoline prices in America first hit $4.00 per gallon, consumers suddenly started demanding more fuel efficient cars. Gas guzzlers like the Hummer disappeared overnight. Sales of full size trucks and SUV’s plummeted. Manufacturers were desperate to build more fuel efficient products that would bring buyers back into showrooms.

Toyota introduced us to hybrids with the Prius. It has taken the rest of the auto industry 10 years to catch up, but suddenly there are hybrids available from every major manufacturer with more on their way. The new darling of the automotive world is the plug-in hybrid that allows drivers to go farther on electric power alone. Nissan offers the LEAF, an electric only automobile.

Final_Plug-in_5Electric cars are nothing new. They were around before the gasoline engine was invented. In fact, the very first Porsche, built in 1898, was an electric vehicle. So we have  come full circle, back where we started more than 100 years ago. But car shoppers…..we have a problem. The average price of a hybrid today is around $30,000. Make it a plug-in hybrid and the price climbs to $40,000. That’s a lot of money no matter how many miles per gallon it gets. People who buy plug-in hybrids will have to drive them 8 years or more before the money they save at the pump equals the extra money they shelled out at the time of purchase. Yikes!

So what’s the answer? Is there a viable alternative that is more fuel efficient than a gasoline engine but less costly than a hybrid? Fortunately, there is. It’s called the diesel engine and it has been around since 1893.

audi_a3_2.0_tdi_eng_10

Audi 2.0 liter turbo-diesel engine

In Europe, about half of all new cars are diesel powered. In America, that number is less than 5%. Why the difference? There are some economic factors. The price of diesel fuel on the Continent is less than gasoline and most diesel cars cost only a few Euros more than their gasoline powered cousins. In the US, diesel fuel costs more than regular gasoline and our emission standards drive up the cost of diesel cars considerably. For instance, Volkswagen estimates it costs $5000 per car to comply with US emissions standards.

So what’s the big deal about diesels? That’s simple. A diesel engine is more fuel efficient than a gas engine. About 18% more, in fact. The driver of a diesel car will get about the same mpg as the driver of a hybrid, but pay less to drive one off the lot. Diesel models have a higher resale value than either gas powered cars or hybrids. All of which makes a diesel a smart economic choice.

VW Jetta SportWagon TDI

VW Jetta SportWagen TDI

But aren’t diesels noisy, smoky, and slow? Not any more. Over the past 30 years, new technology has addressed those issues and made diesels quieter, smoke free and powerful. Now, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen have joined forces to promote their diesel engine models here in America. The campaign is called Clean Diesel. Clearly Better and will be launched at the Detroit International Auto Show this January. Volkswagen has already begun the push, rolling out a clever television ad recently that features two young men listening to Spanish lessons at the start of a road trip. When they finally stop for fuel – 700 miles later – they are speaking Spanish fluently. It’s funny but effective.

Opel Meriva

The Mighty Opel Meriva

I was in France last May, driving from Geneva to Monaco and back in a diesel powered Opel. My driving partner and I didn’t take the high speed Auto Route. Oh, no. We deliberately sought out the steepest, twistiest roads we could find so we could conquer the Alps just as the Roman legions did 1,000 years ago. When it came time to fill up, I was astonished to find our trusty Opel averaged more than 40 mpg in this rigorous driving.

Would you buy a diesel car? I know I would.

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About Steve Hanley

Totally enamored with my family, my grandkids, and seeing the world.
This entry was posted in Diesel Power, Fuel Economy, General Automotive. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Would YOU Buy A Diesel?

  1. Jason Carpp says:

    No question about it. If a diesel powered car was available in the United States, I’d buy one. Whether it’s a 2 litre Subaru Boxer diesel or a 5.9 litre Dodge Ram Cummins. It depends on the job that needs to get done. Is it expensive? Yes it is. But so what? Nothing is cheap.

  2. Jason Carpp says:

    I don’t know whether I’d buy a brand new diesel, only because it’d be too expensive. however, I would buy a good used diesel, preferably one with less than 100k miles on the odometer.

    • Steve Hanley says:

      The used car market has quite a few used diesel models available – most of them Volkswagens. If you check your local “For Sale” listings, you will see that what I said about diesels holding their value is true – diesels are worth approximately double in the used car market what their gas powered twins with comparable mileage and equipment are worth. I always tell people, you cannot accurately calculate how much a car costs to own until you factor in what it will be worth at trade in time. 99% of shoppers ignore this advice.

      • Jason Carpp says:

        I tend to agree. I wish I could say that I’ve owned or driven a diesel powered car. But I have ridden in plenty of them as a passenger. When my family and I were in England, most of the taxis we rode in were diesel powered. I’ve ridden in a Toyota Prius, and while I found the car comfortable to ride in, it’s uglier than dung, it’s a gasoline/electric hybrid. Perhaps someone should make a diesel/electric hybrid car? That’d be something interesting.

      • Jason Carpp says:

        It’s too bad that Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz are the only car companies who offer diesel powered cars. I’m not against hybrid cars. They have their place in the automotive world if people want them. But I’ve come to believe that so do diesel powered vehicles. Someone has a need for diesel powered vehicles. If you have a travel trailer to tow, a diesel vehicle might work. If you have a business that requires you to travel long distances between fill-ups, a diesel powered car might work. It’s just that we should be allowed to have that option. Why should the manufacturers make the decisions, or the EPA? What do they know about fuel economy?

      • Steve Hanley says:

        Regulatory provisions seldom make any sense, Jason. And there will never be a “one size fits all” car that will get 70 mpg in city commuting mode AND pull your travel trailer up the Rocky Mountains on summer vacation. : )

        I just watched a Top Gear from 2003 where Jeremy drives an Audi A8 diesel 800 miles on a single tank of fuel! Attitudes toward diesels in America are changing. And the Clean Diesel. Clearly Better campaign from the German manufacturers may accelerate that process. We hope….

      • Jason Carpp says:

        Exactly! For some reason, the people who make these regulatory provisions seem to think there’s a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Someone should fire the EPA and create a new EPA. Someone who will take the time to test a new car. Test the effects of emissions have on cars, and suggest changes that might help. The thing I have never liked about laws is that they’re absolute! No protest allowed, no “hey! how do you feel about this?” No, they impose these laws on people and expect people to obey, no questions asked. That’s crazy.

      • Jason Carpp says:

        I saw that same Top Gear episode on YouTube about the Audi A8 Diesel, and was more than impressed with its ability to get the best fuel economy, while also providing rather un-diesel like performance. What pisses me off is that diesel powered cars and light duty trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Tundra aren’t available for North American use. It’s been said that Americans don’t like diesel, or don’t want diesel. Says who?

      • Steve Hanley says:

        The marketing departments of the car manufacturers are primarily the ones saying that Americans don’t like diesels, Jason. And they are saying that because that’s what their market research indicates. If you ask most American new car shoppers whether they would consider a diesel, they will claim they would never consider such an outlandish thing. But give them a ride in an Audi A8 diesel and they will quickly change their mind. I think that is what the German manufacturers hope to accomplish with their Clean Diesel. Clearly Better ad campaign. They are betting that if they can just get people to TRY a diesel, they may be surprised to learn they actually LIKE a diesel. Look for my next post, which focuses on the high cost of owning a hybrid. I think when people begin to realize just how much it cost to own one, the case for a diesel alternative will look pretty attractive to a lot of folks.

      • Jason Carpp says:

        I’ll check it out, thanks. I’ve ridden in my share of Mercedes-Benz diesel cars over the years, and I loved them! I was too young at the time to drive, but I remember enjoying the car. Although diesels are known to be noisy, particularly when cold, it didn’t bother me in the least.

      • Jason Carpp says:

        The problem with “marketing people” is that what they say people like and don’t like, or what they want or don’t want, don’t represent the whole picture. They seem to think that because the people they ask say they don’t want a car or truck with a diesel engine, that the whole country doesn’t want a car or truck with a diesel engine. There’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all”, and anyone who says otherwise is either crazy or stupid. Not everyone wants a diesel powered car, truck, van or SUV, and that’s fine. But there are people who do want a diesel powered car, truck, van or SUV, and they should be provided for. They should not be denied just because a few people who say they don’t want it.

  3. Jason says:

    What I believe to be unforgivable is how our US EPA says that we should be driving fuel efficient vehicles – cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans, but the minute car makers offer their vehicles with diesel engines, the EPA then ups the emissions standards once again, making it impossible for car makers to please them, forcing car makers to discontinue the engine from their line of vehicles. Take for example, the Jeep Liberty CRD. The Liberty CRD had a 2.8 litre (or 2776 cc or 169 cu. in.) 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine. It delivered 160 hp @ 3800 rpm and an incredible 295 hp @ just 1800 rpm. Is diesel for everyone? No, not really. But I believe that had the CRD been allowed to remain on the market longer than it was, it would’ve given people something new to think about. I think more people would’ve bought the engine, if not the vehicle with the engine.

  4. Jason says:

    What I’ve never understood is why it takes a rise in fuel prices to convince people that their gas-guzzling monster of a vehicle may not be the best vehicle to drive at the moment. I’d buy a diesel powered car in a heartbeat if I were in the market for one.

    • Steve Hanley says:

      You are an outlier, Jason. In the world of marketing, perception is reality and the perception in America is that diesels are smelly, noisy, underpowered and declasse, none of which is true but that’s what people think. The minivan is perhaps the most efficient passenger car vehicle ever invented, but lots of people won’t drive one because the perception is that they are for soccer moms and people with lots of squalling infants. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, but the truth has very little to do with our real world buying decisions.

      We want our vehicles to make a statement about who we are – how successful and smart we are. Minivans and diesels just don’t do it for us and so we shun them. Foolish, but true.

      • Jason says:

        A what? Outlier? What’s that? Like most people, I like my car to be stylish, but I also prefer functionality, utility, and I like minivans, for that purpose. If I were in the market for one, I’d buy an old-school Toyota Previa (mid-engine, rear/awd) or perhaps an even older Corvair Greenbrier van. How cool would that be? If I had a Corvair, I’d have someone upgrade it with a Subaru Boxer diesel engine.

      • Steve Hanley says:

        An outlier is someone who thinks outside the boundaries of conventional thinking. Don’t worry. That’s a good thing!

      • Jason says:

        Thank you. I’ve never heard of that word before. I like to think outside the box from time to time. It’s especially true with cars. I like to drive something you don’t see many people these days.

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