Diesel Still a Hard Sell in the U.S.

The diesel engine of today may run as clean as gasoline, get better mileage and operate more quietly than a gasoline engine, but buyers in America still hold on to old memories of slow, smoky fuel hogs and resist embracing change. Diesel makes up about fifty percent of total sales in Europe, where gas is still high-priced, as opposed to about one percent of sales in the U.S.

On average, diesel can provide a 25-30 percent improvement in fuel economy. Many of the major automakers are offering new diesel models, including GM, Chevrolet, Jeep, Mercedes, Porsche, VW, Mazda and Land Rover.

The new diesel engines aren’t just more economical, they provide better low-end torque than the equivalent gas engine, meaning that acceleration from standing is faster. This means easier towing for SUV owners, and a better range – sometimes more than 500 miles between fill-ups.  Diesels are also made more ruggedly due to their tendency to compress fuel more than gasoline engines. That means the engines typically last longer and require fewer and less frequent repairs.

So why do Americans still hesitate, despite the advantages? Diesels cost a couple thousand dollars more, and the fuel costs more per gallon.  Diesel often costs more due to lower refining capacity or higher federal taxes and competition from its use as heating oil — the reasons vary. There is also a required additive called AdBlue which needs to be added periodically. Americans also still hold on to old ideas about typical diesel vehicles from thirty or more years ago, and perhaps just aren’t informed. This can all add up to hesitation to make a change.

Total cost of ownership long-term means overall savings for buyers over time, and this is backed up by a new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The study factored in fuel, repairs and residual value after a certain time period, and diesel models usually wound up costing owners far less than gasoline models. For example, Jetta owners saved an average of $3,128, and Golf owners saved about $5,000. The study was financed by major auto supplier Robert Bosch.

For more automotive news, please visit The Driving Zone.

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