Diesel Passenger Cars – Time for a U.S. Comeback?

June 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Spending

I drove by a discount gas station today and noticed something relatively new: The price of diesel was lower than that of regular gasoline. That’s the way it used to be in the way back machine. That has not been the case in recent years. No one can provide an explanation for this flip-flopping that makes consistent sense to me.

Diesel engines have never really been accepted by U.S. consumers for their passenger vehicles. The traditional complaints have been odor, noise, hard starting in cold weather, and lack of fuel availability in some states. That’s a shame because for a lot of drivers, clean diesel makes more sense than electric or hybrid as a “green” money-saving vehicle option.

Because of our anti-diesel stubborness, we’ve been missing out on a lot of fuel-efficient vehicles that the Europeans have. As just one example, in 2007 Ford introduced a diesel version of its Fiesta – the ECOnetic – that sips fuel at an astonishing 65 MPG. ┬áThis five-passenger sedan is still being sold in Europe but it’s never been available in the U.S. That’s just silly and it’s mostly our fault.

For most of my driving life I have been a diesel hater. With the fuel pricing and mileage data I’m seeing recently, my attitude is changing. Plus, I am not overly excited about the prospect of hauling around (and eventually replacing) a bunch of batteries in my car. Diesel engines are known for having high torque which is good if you need to haul or tow stuff. They are also durable. So bring those clean diesel, high torque, high efficiency vehicles here to the U.S. Give us another chance to like them.

After you are through reading about my hope for diesel engine comebacks, take a look at this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance.

And to you Dads: Happy Father’s Day.

Feed Mr. ToughMoneyLove

FREE UPDATES: If you enjoyed this, please subscribe to receive the newest hard truth from Mr. ToughMoneyLove automatically by RSS feed (what is RSS?) or by spam-free Email.

  • Banner


7 Responses to “Diesel Passenger Cars – Time for a U.S. Comeback?”
  1. If I ever get rid of my truck and get a car instead of another truck, it will be a diesel. Probably a VW, since they actually DO sell diesel cars in the US.

  2. Kacie says:

    I rented a moving truck this weekend. It took diesel. We couldn’t find a gas station anywhere near the truck rental place that actually sold diesel, and we called several stations and the truck rental place.

    It seems if diesel is going to take hold here, more gas stations will have to sell diesel.

  3. My Journey says:


    I think it is where you live, in NY Diesel is MUCH more expensive. My father travels for a living and is always shocked about how much diesel costs in NY.

  4. The euro mpg figures are skewed by the imperial gallon which is 20% larger than the American gallon. The actual mpg in the states is closer to 54mpg which is still fantastic and doesn’t detract from the point that I agree with you 100%

  5. cjbr549 says:

    I have driven several diesel cars on trips to Europe. They are really quite nice to drive and the ones I drove were quite peppy. I drove a VW Golf Diesel and dogged it pretty hard, it still got 45 MPG. I normally get mileage numbers well below what more conservative drivers get and was quite impressed with the VW. I read later that the European version had about 20% more horsepower than the US version (which I never drove). I think the hybrids have problems that have not yet been dealt with, such as battery replacement. The batteries in hybrid cars were designed to last 7 years, with the first hybrids coming up on that mark. A 7 year old Honda Insight with 100,000 miles had a private party resale value of 5500 on Edmunds. I suspect that replacement of the battery would cost a substantial portion of that; if not the entire value depending on where you live (labor costs vary). So that puts the effective resale value at close to 0 once these costs are accounted for. I think at some point there will be environmental costs tacked onto the disposal of those batteries, so it may actually cost to get rid of a hybrid with a dead battery. A proven diesel engine (or gas either) that is well maintained will last longer than the rest of the car, so no surprises 7 years down the road.

  6. avery says:

    Are you reading our minds or is this zeitgeist? We are planning to make our next car purchase the Jetta Sportwagen, a clean diesel vehicle. Over on the Edmunds boards, Jetta diesel drivers are saying they are getting around 40/45 mpg city/highway, over the stated mpg of I-forget-what-exactly.
    On the same site, I was reading that along with apathy toward diesel, Americans have shown apathy toward wagons. Since I’ve always liked wagons and wondered why they are hard to find, maybe attitudes toward wagons are generational. I’m an X-er myself and have always found wagons very attractive. Perhaps boomers think of wagons as ‘what the parents drive?’
    After learning a bit about diesel, I’ve got a lot more enthusiasm for it than for current hybrids with their lack of space for kid & equipment hauling, their environmentally hazardous batteries and their potential for expensive things to go wrong.

  7. Ahead of the curve? says:

    I have been waiting very impatiently for a couple years for U.S. diesels. I would really like a small, relatively inexpensive AWD diesel. I currently have an 11 year old Subaru wagon, and would run over to the dealership this weekend if I could buy it as a diesel. I will hold on to this car until they offer the diesel I want. I think Audi is coming out with AWD diesels but I don’t want to pay for an Audi.

Speak Your Mind

Please leave a comment and tell us your version of the hard truth...

You must be logged in to post a comment.