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Having been in the US, and noted how many times we had to fill up our rental car, I couldn’t help but wonder why Americans don’t go for diesel. Especially with the current strains on the economy.

I drive a four cylinder two litre diesel car, and I can get 600 miles out of a full tank. The car that we had in America, barely managed three hundred miles.

Back in the eighties, diesel cars used to be hard to start, noisy, and generally deemed to be unsexy, but things are different now.

So why do Americans still insist on paying for fuel that is obviously less efficient?


  • Felicia
    September 30
    11:10 am

    I think an even bigger question is why don’t car companies sell diesel cars in the US market that are available elsewhere. And why US car manufacturers push cars that get 25-30 mpg as fuel efficient.

    Hubby and I both drive diesel VWs. When we made the decision to switch to them, family and friends looked at us like we were crazy. Let them think that. I drove almost 200 miles yesterday and used less than 1/4 tank of gas. I’ll take that kind of crazy any day of the week.


  • Emmy
    September 30
    11:10 am

    Uh..because diesel fuel costs about 30% more than regular unleaded gas, is widely only available in trucks and SUVs that get 15 miles per gallon, and therefore is economically retarded at this point to use?


  • This is a conversation I’ve had with my brother-in-law, a huge proponent of diesel vehicles and biodiesel. He just bought a diesel Jetta that he loves — 45 mpg, got better than 600 miles on a single tank last week. It’s all about marketing, lobbying and taxation. Here’s a link to an article that summarizes the American resistance to diesel in the context of Ford’s new 65mpg vehicle…which won’t be available in the US.


  • They aren’t as widely available and they cost more. I’ve got three kids…a diesel vehicle for us would cost a painful amount. Even though they get better mileage per gallon, the fuel costs more.

    I’d like a decent sized diesel vehicle, but right now, it’ not feasible.


  • Sam
    September 30
    1:58 pm

    We had a little Ford Escort diesel, back in 1986 (o.k. the DH bought it in 1984, but we didn’t start dating until 1986). We loved it. But, they only made them the one year (1984). I don’t really see American made small diesels anymore. Sure, we could get a big ol truck that’s diesel, but we want smaller vehicles. We drove that sucker until the cost of repairs was beyond the worth of the car (the 2nd or 3rd time).

    I would buy a VW in a minute, but the DH wants to buy American. He also worked for a branch of GM for a few years and even though GM sold his branch off, all the employees are still eligible for the GM discount. So, not only do we have to compare, we have to figure if the cars we like are comparable and the same price, with the discount the GM’s are cheaper. So, until GM takes the discount away, we’ll have GM cars.



  • Uh..because diesel fuel costs about 30% more than regular unleaded gas,

    Diesel costs more over here to, but I save on the fact that I don’t have to refuel as often.

    JMC, so let me get this right, Ford has a perfectly good diesel car that they could sell to the States, but don’t because they don’t think the Americans will buy enough to make it viable?


  • I know in the past Diesel engines were horrible on the air quality. They’ve been making them clean and green now, but for a long time it wasn’t that way and that’s probably what most Americans think of.

    Out here in SoCal, there’s this car that can run on corn or something, and has virtually no emissions. They’re testing it out. Problem? There’s only 2 or 3 refueling stations in the entire state and conveniently, there’s too many miles between them to refuel enough to get home.

    Prices too high for people to afford. Limitations too restraining for people to give it a try. Sometimes, it feels very much like a conspiracy to fail.



  • JMC, so let me get this right, Ford has a perfectly good diesel car that they could sell to the States, but don’t because they don’t think the Americans will buy enough to make it viable?

    Yep. There was a write-up in one of the big online mags, CNN or something, I think. I remember reading it and thinking, well, hell, can’t they at least give us the option?


  • Bonnie L.
    September 30
    5:16 pm

    My understanding is that car makers (including Ford, GM and Mopar) have been making fuel efficient cars for foreign markets for years now, but have not made them available to Americans out of fear that they won’t sell. I’ve been hoping that now that green is the new thing and with the hike in gas prices that they’d start offering these cars to us, but I haven’t seen much.


  • One problem is that, until fairly recently, diesel engines were outlawed in passenger cars in California due to concerns about particulate emissions. I’m not even 100% sure those regulations have been overturned. Since California represents a very large segment of the American car market (due to population density), US manufacturers have been understandably reluctant to build diesel passenger vehicles that can’t be sold in California.


  • Ebony
    September 30
    7:32 pm

    Unless it’s an eighteen wheeler or bus or something like that, they don’t sell diesel cars over here.


  • Jen
    September 30
    8:28 pm

    American car companies are notoriously resistant to change. They’re still peddling 2-gallons-to-the-mile SUVs like they’re stale birthday cake and hoping we’ll just think the mold is blue-green frosting.

    Also, not every gas station over here carries diesel fuel–it’s more expensive, less available, and there are fewer cars that have no more than four wheels on ’em to make it feasible.

    I want something that rides on hydrogen fuel cells, seats six, and can tow an 1800-lb trailer.


  • Emmy
    September 30
    8:57 pm

    Ford has no plans to offer diesel engines in passenger cars in the United States….Ford offers a number of efficient diesels in Europe — including a 50 mpg Focus — but those vehicles would not meet new strict emissions standards introduced here in America. Fields said Ford would be unable to price diesel cars fairly and still make money…

    They couldn’t figure out a way to make the car to meet America’s emissions standards and still keep the car under $30k. A standard 2009 Focus here starts at about $15k.

    So….spend 50% more on the car and 30% more on the gas to drive it, and only go 50% farther….you still end up in the hole at the end of the year. Diesel cars save neither the environment nor your budget, so they aren’t widely available in America. That may change someday, but people are trying to save money now, not go more in debt…if they could even get a new car loan, which is very difficult to do right now.


  • Some Americans do. My hubby and I both drive VW Jetta TDIs. Love them. Fun to drive, economical and long lived (many owners run these cars for several hundred thousand miles –they’re tanks).

    My hubby gets 52mpg on his 2000 TDI with manual tranny. I get 42mpg on my 2006 TDI with automatic tranny (and bigger –about the size of the old Passat).

    I pay $4/gallon diesel to $3.60/gallon gas. Considering I average double the mpg than a gasser, I’m paying more per gallon but less per mile I drive. Plus, I love the fact that I can run biodiesel when I want –recycle that old fryer grease!

    Diesels have had a bad rap in the US due to the messy, smelly machines from the 70s. Add to that the US emissions regulations which are very stringent for diesels and there haven’t been many to offer. VW hasn’t offered a TDI in the US for the last couple of years (since ’06) due to the new engine design they were going for (supposed to ‘recycle’ some of the exhaust, if I recall correctly). Should be back on the market here any time. Along with a whole new offering of BMWs and Mercerdes diesels that are rumored to be on the way too.

    American car manufacturers are too lost up their own butts to have much of a clue.


  • Miki
    October 1
    5:58 am

    I haven’t looked into diesels in years, but the last I remember, you have to warm the engine on cold days. I live in Ohio. Lots and lots of cold days. No garage.

    I can’t imagine running an extension cord from my apartment to the parking lot when there’s 12 inches of snow on the ground. And then how do I start it at the end of the work day?


  • Sistergolden, diesel VWs are back on the market in the US, at least in some states. My brother-in-law has the 2009 Jetta TDI, purchased last month, and is thrilled with it.


  • Dawn
    October 1
    1:43 pm

    So the government is concerned about the emissions from diesels, but don’t institute vehicle tests for the cars, which will kill people when they fall apart on the motorway? I’ve seen some diabolical cars on the roads – held together with tape – I just don’t understand this!


  • Misty G
    October 3
    1:52 am

    I just bought a 2008 Toyota Yaris that gets 42 mpg on the highway. I drive 50mi a day for work, and only have to fill up every 7 days or so, which is a big change from my chevy. Maybe it’s not so much the gas as it is the type of car people buy.


  • jakeefer
    October 9
    9:20 pm

    VW’s new TDI jetta was tested by AMCI at 38city 44 hwy… with diesel averaging around $3.70 that comes out to 8.4 cents a mile hwy. The Toyota Camry that’s about the same size gets 30 hwy at 3.50 a gallon. That comes out to 11.6 cents per mile hwy. And trust me, the Jetta is a much more fun car to drive, the torque surge from that engine is ridiculous.


  • juan
    October 21
    5:27 pm

    Here in the US we are very spoiled and dont make the right decisions but still complaint. i dont really get it. the info is out there, better fuel efficiency, engines last longer, cleaner emissions. Hopefully, change with the new government and cutting off the monopoly of oil companies.


  • David
    March 8
    11:49 pm

    All of these comments are no longer valid. As of Mar. 2009, Diesel is as cheap and in some places, cheaper than regular grade gas. Here in Wichita, KS, gas is 1.85, and diesel is 1.89. If you can get 50-60mpg, at similar prices to gas, NOW you are ahead. I hate Americans that are against diesel, its their fault that we dont have them in the first place. Diesel is the future. Get on the band wagon or get left behind, driving your No2 polluting gas engine cars


  • Jon Sharpe
    July 31
    10:35 pm

    Diesels are so unrefined and when pulling up in a truck stop is a horrible experience when a Mack is right next to you emitting a horrible sound. Makes sense for a large truck. Not practical for a car. Never make your cost back.


  • Chris
    May 10
    4:39 am

    I think it is completely dumb that Americans don’t drive diesel. We are the only country that doesn’t have it. I drive an 05 Vdub Passat TDI and it is the sexiest car I could possibly ask for other than a BMW 335diesel. Jon Sharpe, you are wrong in saying it is impractical. Diesel cars are as quiet as gas now, greener and much more fuel efficient. Diesel prices as of May 10, 2011 are CHEAPER than regular gasoline. I just made a complete case for diesel and I don’t think anyone can disagree because they would have no point at all.


  • D. Van Zan
    February 5
    1:11 pm

    The USA Government along with it’s corporate sponsors in the Oil Biz do not want European standard Diesels all over the roads. All the car companies make good Diesels(I have a Toyota pick up truck 4×4 that has a nice diesel engine. Firstly the cost of Diesel being 30% more is silly when it gets over twice as much mileage. Simple math for those capable will see the value in that. Secondly, the Diesels can be much more efficient then the factory puts them out as. Do your homework on the net and you will see some of us clocking over 60 miles per gallon on our VW’s consistently. If the US Government was really “for the people and by the people”, then the price of diesel would be regulated and the efficiency of the engines would be increased. Saves money/families in the Car and on all shipped items at the grosery store like milk for instance. Also it cleans up the environment, and lowers our dependance on foreign oil. Keep voting for Dem/Rep duchers and the USA will swirl down the toilet.


  • Anon 76
    February 5
    4:45 pm

    My hubster has been a mechanic for years. Both on gas and deisel engines. One truck we owned back in the 80’s he changed out engines numerous times from one fuel to the other.

    The one thing I remember about the deisels (a long time ago) is that you could not walk out the door in really cold temperatures and start the thing up. You had to plug in (in some manner) a heater to make the plugs? fire.

    Don’t know if this is still true, but buried in 5 feet of snow it wasn’t an attractive feature.


  • Steve
    April 18
    12:29 pm

    I drive a 10 year old Audi A3 1.9 TDi (diesel) in the UK and it constantly returns over 40mpg and over 50mpg on motorway trips. It isn’t noisy or smelly, has 177bhp, 305ft/lbs of torque which is massive and ought to last 250,000 miles. At present it has just under only 100,000 and feels like new. The top speed is about 135mph and it has quattro ie four wheel drive.
    On cold mornings you turn on the ignition one click, wait 3-4 seconds for the glow plug light on the dash to go out then turn the ignition on full and it starts. New diesels like my brother’s Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 don’t even have a glow plug system to start them they warm their glow plugs automatically. That Jag has massive torque, much more than a big gasoline American V8 because diesels are also much more torquey than the gasoline equivalent. It’s restricted to 155mph so don’t think diesel equals slow either.
    In the UK practically all SUVs (big off roaders) are diesel because it’s insane to drive a gas-guzzling gasoline one like our American friends do. All Range Rovers and Discoverys are diesel as are people carriers. You might spot a rare supercharged gasoline Range Rover if you look hard but they have terrible fuel consumption.
    All big limo Mercs and Audis in Europe are powerful and quiet economical diesels.
    A change of heart must be due in the states surely.


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