When will America be ready for diesels?

Featured Posts, Interesting | February 11th, 2013 by 24
BMW M Triturbo Diesel Technik Details4 750x500

Yet one more thing for Europeans to ’tisk-tisk’ at Americans over. Diesels. Consumers on the old continent have made their choice – over the last …

Yet one more thing for Europeans to ’tisk-tisk’ at Americans over. Diesels.

Consumers on the old continent have made their choice – over the last couple of decades they have come to love their torque-y oil-burners and diesels now make up a clear majority of passenger car sales in Europe. In some markets such France and Italy, diesels are more than 70 percent of total sales. For BMW, diesels made up two-thirds of their home market in Germany in 2012, and 56 percent of total European sales for the year.

And it makes sense. Diesels today are clean, quiet and cheap to run. They provide a great driving experience, perfect, actually, for the large boulevards and highways that makes up most driving in America. They come with loads of torque and the glow of green credibility. When an entry-level 1.6 liter diesel from VW can deliver 250 Nm of torque – that’s almost 25 percent more than on the Toyota FT-86 and enough to power an all-wheel drive system on a Golf, for instance – why opt for anything else other than the 2.0 liter TDI which offers even more output?

bmw diesel cars us1 655x464

(I once tested a 115 hp BMW 116d for a week and couldn’t see any reason why the car wouldn’t satisfy your every need as a daily driver. At the other end of the spectrum, I also once had an E91 335d with the M-sport package and they had to tear me off of it when it was time to give it back.)

So, it’s easy to ask the question as to when will American drivers will be ready to adopt diesel cars. But the reality is it’s not as simple as convincing American motorists to try one. Notwithstanding having consumers understand the benefits of driving an oil-burner, there are several obstacles that need to be overcome before diesels can be a viable option for the majority of U.S. car buyers.

The difficulties go beyond consumer awareness and include the issues of emissions regulations, availability and quality of fuel. The United States has stricter limits on mono-nitrogen oxides than Europe (for light vehicles – trucks are another matter) which requires automakers to install expensive after-treatment systems to filter out the NO and NO2 (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide). The cetane rating of American diesel fuel is also lower than in Europe, which makes it less combustible, and diesel fuel isn’t available at every pump like it is in Europe. Also American diesel has more sulfur in it, which complicates the emissions question too.

BMW M Triturbo Diesel Technik Details4 655x458

To overcome these issues is going to require an effort on a national scale. That means legislation that cleans up the fuel. In effect, it requires political action to make diesels a viable option for American drivers and it should come as part of a policy of reducing overall emissions. Good luck with that in Washington. The political leadership of the country can’t seem to agree on anything, let alone be able to address a colossal and divisive issue like climate change. And certainly a minor item like diesel fuel standards is way off the radar there.

Nope, the only way those technical issues can ever be overcome is with technological advancement by the automakers, which seems quite likely, actually, given the progress that’s already been made. But the automakers often boast too much about their diesel tech and how they’re going to bring more oil-burning models to the U.S. and things end up moving a lot slower than what was said in the rhetoric. It may be a while before all those promises materialize.

But after that, convincing the consumer should be the easy part. All they have to do is try one.

Which diesel model currently unavailable in the U.S. would you like to see stateside?

Let us know in the comments below.

24 responses to “When will America be ready for diesels?”

  1. Tom says:

    Bring over the diesels that provide 50+ MPG and still retain sporting characteristics and I think America will embrace.

  2. Minners says:

    I was recently in Italy driving up and down the twisty, hilly roads of Tuscany with four people in the car for about five days. We had to refill the tank with diesel one time and we were still no where close to empty. It was a small Ford that naturally is not available here in the US. I sure want it to be though.

  3. auaq says:

    I opt for the 335d for daily cruising, but for a bash of speed how about the new M550i xdrive?

  4. Michel says:

    I want to see a diesel hybrid. Its really where we need to be.

  5. emulajavi says:

    Hi. I live in Europe and I don’t like diesels. Governments say diesels are better because they are cheaper and because Germany had bet on it. Gasoline vehicles emissions are CO2 which plants absorb, and diesel emissions are NO which is dangerous to the enviroment. Also, taxes on new vehicles in Europe are based on CO2 emissions (which are not the worse emissions), and thats why diesels are cheaper here.

    Finally, sure they have a lot of torque, but the sound…… nothing is comparable to the sound of a gasoline engine

  6. If you want the Americans to use diesel ,you have to bring facts and benefits to the table,for instance bring the diesels that provide 50+ MPG and still retain sporting characteristics

  7. Mike M says:

    We are planning to purchase the X3 diesel when it comes to the U.S.!!

  8. david2son08 says:

    I have a Golf TDI for my daily commuter car, and love it. I have averaged 42 MPG in the year I have owned it.
    If BMW would bring the 1 Series Diesel to the United States I would sell the Golf TDI and buy the 1 Series.

  9. Steve Wortham says:

    I’d like to drive an AWD Mazda CX-5 with their 2.2L diesel and manual transmission. As it stands, this seems to be an unlikely combination here in the states. And that’s ironic because it’d probably be the most enjoyable compact SUV out there under 30K.

    Aside from that, the BMW X1 xDrive23d would be good too.

    • bfd says:

      Yes, the X123d would be a big hit as well as a regular 123d. For those needing “high performance,” bring in the 550d with the tri-turbos, that should turn heads! However, diesel needs to become available at more places like Costco and the price needs to come down. Here in the SF Bay Area, diesel cost more than premium?! Where’s the savings in that?! Nevertheless, BMW needs to bring it now! Good Luck!

  10. Horatiu says:

    I’m personally looking forward to 2.0 liter diesel. That will be great in the 3 Series

  11. Tony Carr says:

    I would like to see Hyundai bring over their diesels. I would love a diesel Accent!

  12. Jerhaad says:

    X1 23d M-Sport 6MT
    Any diesel coupe, probably cash limited to an E82 or E92.
    Kicking myself for not getting a new 335d when I had the chance…

  13. Mark says:

    3 series xdrive 4 cylinder with at least 50 mpg
    a X5 with the 300 hp getting 40 mpg.. 8000lbs towing cap…
    That would be heaven !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. David Jervis says:

    The percentages are rising, for instance while selling Mercedes the take rate on the ML and GL suv’s was close to 80% in Canada. The price premium to go from gas to diesel is just $1500. However this is what the dealers mostly ordered so alot of people were swayed to diesel because of availabiliy. For short term low mileage drivers the savings are negligible but if you drive alot of keep the car 5+years the diesel is a great option

  15. bboothy says:

    I have driven a 335d and loved the low end torque, but the cost of a new 3-series
    is too high for me. I am leasing a MINI countryman and would have bought it if it were available with a 2.0 turbo diesel in “SD” tune like they have in Europe. A 335d sport wagon with X-drive would be worth a price premium to me and I would probably try to take European delivery of it as well.

  16. 320d – pure and simple…

  17. Matteo says:

    Please give us an x1xdrive23d with a manual transmission! Americans will buy them!

  18. machu says:

    I drive F10 520d and I love every moment. It beats my wife’s X3 3.0i in every aspect of driving. I always liked large gas engines, but now I’m converted – in a daily driving conditions, torque of a BMW diesel is hard to beat. I’ve driven a lot of diesels and BMW’s diesels are really in the league of their own – there is simply no comparison.
    BTW, my 520d fuel economy: 27.5 mpg (city), 43mpg hwy.
    If I drive in sport mode city fuel economy goes down to 24.7 – but boy, it’s fun!

  19. roadhound says:


  20. Anteraan says:

    Mazda looks to be bringing their SKY-D to the US in the new 6 this summer/fall. I’m holding out for the CX-5 with the diesel, AWD, and preferably a manual. If the factory is willing make one, I’ll be glad to pay a bit extra to special order one in that configuration.

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