American Exceptionalism: Why So Few Diesel Cars?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 11/08/2013 06:56:00 AM
It routinely surprises insular Yanks who dare venture abroad that the rest of us are quite fond of diesel cars. In this day and age of dear fuel, improved mileage has it attractions. Americans would beg to differ: They shake! They stink! That's what trucks run on! are among the things you hear them say. Such stereotypes hold only for older generations (up to, say, Eighties vintage) of passenger vehicles. By the Nineties, consumers elsewhere embraced advances in diesel technology that have made them the fuel of choice not only on fuel saving grounds but also performance given the wider torque spread of cars running diesel. Nowadays, of course, the poshest of brands--Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc--feature model ranges replete with diesel models. They certainly don't shake, stink, or run like trucks anymore...from Auntie:
A 1.6-litre turbodiesel delivers the torque surge of a much larger gasoline engine, yet with the fuel efficiency of a much smaller one. In the UK, diesel sales account for more than half of all cars sold, and even with a stat like that, Britain lags the rest of Europe, which has long preferred diesel to gas.

So why would more Americans not drive diesels? From the European perspective, it would suit the driving style of the States perfectly, with lots of relaxed muscle available at low rpms to cruise vast interstate networks that are the envy of the world. Better mileage means fewer fill-ups, and the on-paper improvements in fuel economy would, overnight, take the US fleet one massive step toward President Obama’s targeted 54.5 mpg national average by 2025. Simply stated, diesel should “work” in the US.
EPA rules on mileage will probably "force" US consumers to adopt diesels alike Europeans have. OTOH, you can argue that the US market is more primitive in this respect, resembling a pre-enlightened Europe:
In the UK of the 1980s, diesel drivers were outcasts. They were required to fill up around the back of the station, over by the truckers, to be looked upon by gasoline burners with a mixture of pity and smugness. And that presumed diesel drivers could even find somewhere to fill up, as not every filling station bothered to stock their fuel.

This sheer lack of availability led to great variability in pricing. As the only filling-station proprietor in 25 miles to stock diesel, Mr. Smith could subsequently charge more or less whatever he wanted. A survey of diesel prices in the US illustrates a similarly maddening snapshot of how scarcity can produce wide price fluctuations, with pump prices varying by up to 50 cents a gallon. But with more diesel purchasers, the laws of the marketplace would kick in, bringing prices into greater alignment.
Given the need for low-sulphur refining, diesel would not necessarily become cheaper than premium in the US. It is pricier on the other side of the Pond, too, but although Europeans gripe about it, they still know the savings add up. Diesel generally returns 30% better mileage than gas, and in the dominion of $8 gallons, this is no small advantage.
So the Yanks are a bunch of eco-primitives; tell me something new about these folks who still debate about whether climate change exists when the rest of the world has moved on to doing something about it.