Comeback Kid: More Diesels Coming Our Way

For over a decade, I have been saying we need more diesels in the United States.

Sadly, many Americans were burned by so-called “diesels” of the ‘80s that left a bad taste in their mouth. Back then, they were slow, smelly, and loud. Luckily that has all changed now and in certain circumstances, a diesel is an excellent choice for many people. On the radio show, I always try to recommend a diesel for those who drive a lot of miles. One reason is fuel economy, the other is engine longevity.

Generally, if a passenger car comes in a gas version and a diesel version, the diesel will get 30% better fuel economy, sometimes even more. Diesel pickups are harder to calculate the increase because of the difference in rear-end ratios, but the engine longevity and pulling power are certainly positive considerations for many.

By the end of the 2014 model year, which will come in August, 2014, there will be 40 diesel vehicles available in America, and more coming the following years, including half-ton smaller diesels. In recent times, diesels have accounted for less than 5% of total sales, but that tide is turning quickly since there are now more choices.

Last month, August of 2013-the auto industry increased sales of vehicles by 17% over August 2012. That is a significant increase, but in the same time frames, sales of clean diesels were up 41.8%. That follows a year-over-year increase in July 2013 of 38%. Clearly there is momentum in this country for diesels. The August 2013 increase was greater than that of hybrid vehicles.

Some people shy away from diesels due to the higher upfront cost of the vehicle, and also because of the higher cost of fuel. Many, however, fail to put the longer life of the engine into the equation. It is not uncommon for a diesel engine to go twice as far as a gasoline engine. According to some of the automakers, it doesn’t take long to recoup the premium of the diesel power train. VW says the average driver will save $3000 in just three years, and that is more than the cost of the engine.

All the automakers are striving to meet the Government mandated fuel economy standards that go up in 2015, and then significantly higher by 2025. Diesels are going to help them get there if they can convince Americans to give them a try.

Volkswagen has held a stronghold on the diesel market in the U.S. for a number of years. In the past year, however, we have seen a new diesel Cruze from Chevrolet, which I reviewed and loved. A new Mazda 6 diesel is headed our way. Nissan just announced they will be putting a Fiat diesel in the new Titan pickup. Ford, GM, and Dodge Ram all have small diesels coming in half-ton trucks.

Luxury brands have had success with both cars and SUVs. Mercedes Benz offers a number of vehicles with their Blue Tec diesel. BMW is big into diesels these days, and so is Audi. Even Porsche is building a Cayenne diesel.

Will we get to the 54% diesel market share that Europe has right now? Doubtful, but as diesels get more fuel-efficient and word gets out about the facts of them, I think we will see a lot more of them on the roads.

-Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro

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