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Diesel Engines: Is D-Day Here?

There’s no stopping diesel as a gotta-have car fuel now.

diesel gas station pumpDespite diesel fuel’s gradual acceptance on the U.S. market, it remains a rare fuel of choice for seekers of economical engines.

According to R.L. Polk’s tabulated registrations, about 6.2 million diesel vehicles were in operation on North American roads in 2012.

Only about 800,000 of these were passenger cars and SUVs, the rest were heavy-duty pickup trucks and SUVs.

Diesel-powered vehicles have escalated in number, but only 0.6 percent of sales have gone to diesel-fuel powerplants, according to Polk data.

The shortfall in the share of vehicle purchases going to diesel fuel is occurring in spite of all-out marketing efforts by the German automakers.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called for German automakers to lead in sales of electric and hybrid as well as diesels, but the Germans have not fared so well on the hybrid front, while diesel sales have been gaining momentum thanks to Mercedes-Benz global plans to field eight diesel models in the 2014 lineup, including a 4-cylinder C-class entry-level sedan. Driveability is another factor favoring diesels over hybrids.

The electric engine does call for what NY Times critic Lawrence Ulrich in his July 21 review described as a “hassle (or inconvenience) whereas hybrid driving brings tricks including obsessively avoiding the gas pedal.”

Diesel advocate Doug Skorupski, tech strategy manager for VW of America, dismisses hybrid-engine driving as “subnormal,” compared to diesel-engine driving. BMW has other reservations, and will phase out its 4-cylinder turbo-diesel 328d sedan in 2014.

These drivers have found the “turbo” half of “turbodiesel” operations detrimental to the Bavarian automaker’s reputation for power smoothness and mileage-per-gallon results.

Just as “turbo” spells power in a Porsche Cayenne supercharged V-6 or in the entry-level range between a 20 MPG Toyota Prius and a 49 MPG Chevrolet Cruze Diesel (yes, that’s right) the domestic Big 3 are into diesels big time and all still needs a salute from President Obama to challenge Chancellor Merkel on an alternative engine race, including hard-to-get diesel fuel.

(NOTE: When can a diesel pump be found at every gas station, hotel and stadium? By 2014, or 2023, or never, without a push from President Obama.)