Diesel Cars in America

2013 Cadillac ATS diesel

2013 Cadillac ATS diesel

Diesel Cars in America

By Geoff Wheatley

I have never quite understood the reluctance on the part of the American driving community to accept diesel engines. Sure I know the truck industry embraces these power units but not the private vehicle owner. On a recent visit to my family in England I rented a German mid size Ford with a diesel engine. Driving condition on Britain's crowded roads is at best nerve racking not to mention the fact that you are driving on the wrong side of the road. Much of the travel is either fifteen MPH on a crowded Motorway or 80 MPH on an open highway with drivers trying to make up for lost time. Now add the multi size trucks with trailers sporting tag plates from several EEC Countries who like me were driving on the wrong side of the highway.

Fuel economy is not the first thing one considers in these circumstances however I decided to see what MPH I might achieve with my diesel engine. Over a period of ten days traveling 1600 miles either on crowded roads, equally crowded towns and/or six lane motorways with flowing traffic cruising at 80 mph I recorded 48 miles to the gallon, the American gallon of course, easy to calculate at four liters to the gallon. Fuel is now sold in Europe, including the UK in liters not gallons. In the same conditions with gasoline I doubt if I would have seen an average of twenty miles to the gallon. On top of that you would never know that there was a diesel motor under the hood in fact if the hire company had not posted a large notice on the dashboard informing me and any other driver that diesel was the required fuel I may well have stopped and filled up with gasoline with somewhat distress results. In what we now call the old days that I think of as yesterday, certain garages in Britain sold kerosene utilizing one of their fuel pumps/storage tanks to dispense the stuff. I recall pulling up and asking the young attendant to "Fill It UP" ... He did with kerosene. It took several hours to drain the car at the expense of the garage owner who also filled the tank with the correct fuel at no cost. However, I was never quite happy with its performance after that and sold it. Thinking back my concerns were really unfounded as I never started to car with the wrong fuel in the tank but I was convinced that it was not running correctly every time I drove somewhere.

The one unfortunate thing about diesel is that should you spill any on your person, I.e. cloths etc., you will live with the smell for some time! Evan worse if you get it inside the car. How do I know? Simple I spilt some when I first tried t refuel the car and discovered that the delivery must be fully inside the cars fuel tank! (You only do that once!) TV Advertising for some of the small family diesel powered cars in Europe will claim up to 60 MPG when cruising around 70 on the Motor Routes. I have driven such cars in Spain and Italy and can confirm these statements, however it should be remembered that diesel fuel can be even more expensive that gasoline and that at least three times the cost that we pay this side of the Atlantic. The recent car that I hired cut out at every stop light much to my annoyance. After two days of this I phoned the hire company only to find that it's supposed to do this, it was an additional way to save fuel. All the driver had to do was touch the gas pedal and the engine roared back into life..What will they think of next?

2012 Porsche Cayenne diesel.

2012 Porsche Cayenne diesel

Diesel marine engines have been around more years than I care to remember and they certainly were accepted in America seventy or more years ago with no reluctance yet mention a diesel private vehicle and you will get twenty reasons why they are accepted by the American public, most of them not even relevant to the technology we have today. Noise, smell, difficult to maintain, are just a few comments I have encountered whenever I bring up the subject with my car buddies. As I have indicated I never knew the car was Diesel even after 400 or more miles. Difficult to maintain, who ever started this rumor needs to go back to school. The required service time is around 50,000 miles and even then the principle requirement is to ensure the injection units are clean and working, there is not much else to go wrong. Engine life is about twice as long as the conventional internal combustion unit often more! Here is an interesting development for the promotion of Diesel cars.

The once famous MG Company is now owned by a Chinese auto maker who has been selling family cars under the MG logo. As yet the sales have been restricted to the home market and certain locations in South America but I am sure that at some point they will look at Europe. How can they do that? Consider this... what was left of the British Rover Corporation who sold out to BMW, who in turn sold off the Rover/MG interests to a British group who ran out of money and then sold what was left to the current owners,(SAIC). BMW kept the ever popular Mini in the BMW family with a successful new design and a world distribution advantage.

The original factory in the North of England called Longbridge came with the purchase deal from BMW, it was out of date as far as modern production was concerned but still was a usefully facility. In order to raise money over half was sold off for private development, shops, apartments supermarket etc. and buildings were demolished, except for a semi modern production center that at one time produced the BMW, MGF which as you may recall was not a great success.

2013 Audi A3 TDI diesel

2013 Audi A3 TDI diesel

In 2010, SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, who are also in partnership with General Motors US) decided to revamp what was left of Longbridge and made a substantial investment in modern assembly equipment as a start to reintroducing the MG logo to the UK and Ireland in the form of a small family model known as the MG 6. With an eye on the European market they also have offered a diesel version. Production is limited to around 1500/2000 a year but could increase as and when the sales position increases. The cars are part assembled in China then shipped to Longbridge for completion. Seems a strange process to this scribe but I guess the owners know what they are doing, it may well be cheaper to part assemble in China than the UK or Europe. There seems to be no indication that the once famous MG Sports will ever return to our roads or any other for that matter as the current owners see no worthwhile market for any two seat vehicle and of course right now the auto industry is almost flooded with sports style vehicles, both produced in American and Europe, not forgetting Japan.

The Jaguar Company is now owned by TATA in India although the product is still being produced in the UK. Again any suggestion of sports versions are on the back burner although as many of you will know a modern version of the famous E Type is available if you have the funds and/or can re-mortgage the house!

So once again I ask the question why are we so afraid of a Diesel car sitting in the drive way when there is little doubt that it will be the power unit of the future if not here in most other places in the world especially as the manufacturers are being pushed for better performance in fuel and service.
© 2012 Geoff Wheatley Contributing Reporter/Writer

PS In another article I will expand on the growth of SAIC that produces no less than over four million cars a year and is still growing.. Also apart from GM they have an additional partnership with VW.

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