Arran's Alley

Watch what they do, not what they say.

Mick Arran

Mick Arran
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA
January 05
I've done everything from recycling to teaching in a pre-school. Most recently I was for 10 years an acting and theater teacher as well as a pallet builder. I read a lot and I'm an old man who remembers the distant past with somewhat more clarity than this morning's breakfast. I've been blogging for a decade and I don't do "light". If you're looking for recipes, self-promoting displays of items made for sale, titillating stories about how I was a pimp for an afternoon, or the beauties of toasters, you've come to the wrong place. Check the Front Page.


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 22, 2008 1:10PM

Why Ford Won't Sell Its 65mpg Car in the US

Rate: 33 Flag

It's - wait for it - us. From Business Week:

If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor, known widely for lumbering gas hogs.

The ECOnetic will go on sale in Europe in November.

Ford's 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here's the catch: Despite the car's potential to transform Ford's image and help it compete with Toyota Motor and Honda Motor in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. "We know it's an awesome vehicle," says Ford America President Mark Fields. "But there are business reasons why we can't sell it in the U.S." The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.

Automakers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have predicted for years that a technology called "clean diesel" would overcome many Americans' antipathy to a fuel still often thought of as the smelly stuff that powers tractor trailers. Diesel vehicles now hitting the market with pollution-fighting technology are as clean or cleaner than gasoline and at least 30% more fuel-efficient.

Yet while half of all cars sold in Europe last year ran on diesel, the U.S. market remains relatively unfriendly to the fuel. Taxes aimed at commercial trucks mean diesel costs anywhere from 40 cents to $1 more per gallon than gasoline. Add to this the success of the Toyota Prius, and you can see why only 3% of cars in the U.S. use diesel. "Americans see hybrids as the darling," says Global Insight auto analyst Philip Gott, "and diesel as old-tech."

I've wondered for years why the US didn't switch over to diesel like Europe. It's more efficient, cheaper to produce, and it isn't as hard on engines because the new diesels burn cleaner. The diesel Mercedes Benz's and Volvos they have in Europe routinely get 50+ mpg and run for 1,000,000 miles. Or more.

Everybody who thinks they won't sell it here because of "image" raise your hands. OK. Now everybody who thinks they won't do it because the oil companies wouldn't like it, raise your hands.

That's what I thought.

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There is some irony in all of this: The big 2.5's US sales of SUVs provided enormous profit margins that were used to offset low margins in Europe, and to prepare for Euro IV and V emissions standards. Now that the SUV party is over, you'd think that the big three would be rushing to increase their return by bringing over the Euro market cars as GM has done with pretty much every Saturn they sell. Chrysler sells their minivans in Europe with diesel engines, you'd think they'd be gearing up to do that here. Apparently not.

Leaving aside the oil companies for a moment, there are a couple of reasonable explanations: the lead time required for certification in the US market makes car companies edgy about bringing over Euro models, and there is no evidence to suggest that people would buy clean diesels in enough quantities to either make it worthwhile, or to prompt companies to rethink their marketing.

Put it this way: there is no European car manufacturer which sells in the US that doesn't have a series of diesel models which could be sold in the US. BMW could sell the 320d and tout over 40 mpg, Mercedes the C220, Audi the A4 2.0 TD, but they don't - because Americans think diesel and think truck, or if they have long memories, the truly woeful Caddies with diesel engines in the 80s.

I think it's a shame - I'd love to be able to get a Honda Accord diesel as sold in the EU market. While even clean diesel has some shortcomings for areas like Los Angeles, there's no getting around the fact that a Mercedes E320 diesel produces the same CO2 emissions as a Prius without all the pollutants involved in the production and long supply chain for the batteries, despite being substantially bigger.
It's oil I think. But just also, I imagine, lower car turnover. As you pointed it's easier on the engine, so cars last longer. The U.S. economy runs on planned obsolescence. You'll never see the car activating for anything that will make their cars last.
The gov't would also have to do something about that tax on diesel. The car could get a 100 mpg but few would buy it knowing they would be penalized at the pump.
It's not Ford. It's not even the oil companies. You're right, it's US. It's the American consumer which hasn't turned onto diesel autos.
VW is trying to merchandise small diesels in the U.S. and other manufacturers (domestic, asian and european) are playing wait and see on the outcome.
Diesels cost more than gas powered vehicles--$2000 to $3000. With a fuel premium and a more expensive car, consumers are a bit skeptical about savings. Plus, consumers in their infinite wisdom have declared the hybrid the magic cure which it most definitely is not. Hybrids were never intended to be a cure-all--and they have a "premium" cost higher than diesel engines.
In Europe, people buy a car and drive it for years--7-8 yearsor more is the average. In the U.S. the average "trade cycle" is 40 months.
The European market is substantially different from the U.S. market. We can whine all we want about turbo-diesels in Europe or wherever but we're the reason they aren't available here.
The only problem I see with this car is that it would not be practical in rural areas that have freezing sometime below zero temps. I see you live in Savannah, Georgia - city areas in warmer climates - lots of well maintained highways - PERFECT - I could not drive this car where I live in Maine. Have you ever seen an ice heave? I scrape the bottom of my Mustang on these heaves and drive all over the road like a drunk person to avoid them. I would not be able to go down dirt roads with rocks either...why diesel fuel? I would like to see us start running cars that do not depend on petroleum at all. Just make the cars higher off the ground so the bottoms aren't ripped out everywhere but city streets and major highways. If I lived in a city, I'd be riding a bike like I did in Philly.
Hmm, our corporations are all good. I know that the CEO must increase profits at all costs or be fired. But surely, none of the best and the brightest would hold back something beneficial to society?

Say it is not so that profits would be put ahead of the right thing to do?

Look how nice the oil companies are to lower prices every year after a big holiday where people do a ton of driving and demand is high (I know it does go against supply and demand, but hey they did lower prices)... surely they are good.
FYI, biodiesel is widely available here in Asheville and during the recent gas shortage, when stations were out of gas for a week at a time, diesels were the only vehicles on the road.

If you can convert the diesel engine on this car to run waste vege oil, you can drive from McDonalds to McDonalds and smell like french fries.
I've been driving diesel Mercedes for years, and fueling them with biodiesel and veggie fuel in the warm months up north, including Maine - and year 'round in Cali and elsewhere; and would allow you to put your mouth on the tail pipe and inhale the exhaust. Smells like shrimp scampi... and my big, heavy 1983 Mercedes station wagon gets about 30 mpg with no carbon footprint.

The government has it's head up it's rectum. Taxing diesel fuel raises the prices of everything commercially shipped by 18 wheelers, which is just about everything we consume; so it makes life more expensive for all of us, whether we drive a diesel or not. My next car will be electric. I've got my eye on the new Tesla. All I need is money to burn and I can drive green...
Even when diesel hit all time highs 15 months ago, the mileage was easily twice as much as gasoline, so it was still a better value for the dollar. Oh, yes, in general working on diesel engines is much easier, and thus less expensive.

Americans need to discard the thinking that the US is cutting edge, i.e. a leader in anything. While we are not without some serious thought and innovation, generally we are way, way, way behind the Euros. We do not set the tone any longer. We are scrambling to catch up, and even sadder is the lack of impetus that retains otherwise intelligent and well educated Americans into an odd state of lethargy and intellectual coma.
If I didn't know better I'd guess that car was a Prius.

Lack of imagination.
Ablonde writes: "Americans need to discard the thinking that the US is cutting edge, i.e. a leader in anything."

You got that right. I remember hearing a few years ago abou some amazing things that Asians and Europeans were able to do with their cell phones, and we still can't do those things here. In so many fields we are no longer the leader, and sometimes not very good at following.

By the way, I have a 2002 diesel VW bug. It's great; I get around 38mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway.

I don't know what happened, but when I bought the car diesel was about the same price as gas. Now it's often more expensive, sometimes by a dollar per gallon or more. Something happened in the last seven years, but I don't know what.
Let's address a few points.

"While even clean diesel has some shortcomings for areas like Los Angeles,"

The new Detroit diesel engine has exhaust cleaner than the air it sucks in to run. So have them run around LA is like having a series of giant air cleaners cleaning the cities air supply.

"Taxing diesel fuel raises the prices of everything commercially shipped by 18 wheelers, which is just about everything we consume; so it makes life more expensive for all of us, "

Here is a test. Name for me one thing in your house that did not ride in a truck? Just one, I'm easy.

As fuel taxes go the low in the nation now is OK at 13 cents per gallon to CA at 43.7 cents per gallon. OR has a tax, they just don't collect it at the pump. You pay it differently. The average, key word is average, truck gets 6 MPG.

The reason they won't sell them here is the mileage. I expect at least a million miles on my truck. We like to trade cars to much and if you can get that many miles, nobody will trade cars.
Do I have to chose between "image" and "oil companies"? I believe the real answer is two-fold: clean air and access to oil. We tend to forget, but throughout most of the U.S. development of our current car culture, we weren't hugely depended of foreign oil. We had big reserves in Texas, Alaska and elsewhere. Western Europe did not. To compensate, Western European governments taxes gas highly. Americans were more concerned about clean air and didn't want very dirty diesel making a mess of things. Both are reasonable responses to different situations.

In the ’70s, European companies introduced diesel models to the U.S. to address the oil crisis. The diesels were stinky, noisy and sluggish. U.S. consumers were underwhelmed. Only in the past few years has diesel technology overcome the problems that made it a hard sell in the U.S. It will take time for the average American to consider diesel again, which is why Ford is being cautious.
It's not as simple as that. It's hard to make a diesel that will satisfy our emissions standards (which are more than just CO2) . Emissions standards reduced MPG, as do safety standards. Our emissions and safety standards are much stricter than those in Europe, hence the reason we can have almost identical cars with lower MPG in the U.S.
Mick as the owner of a Mercedes Diesel, the cost differential of fuel at least on the east coast are nowhere near as high as your post states. Diesel is available for about the same price as premium gas, and earlier this summer was 2-3 cents more than regular.

I get 35 MPG on the highway and with 21 gallon tank have a cruising range near 700 miles. My car is 12 years old, never needs a tune up, and has 175,000 miles on the odometer,

You know, the fear of corporations on the left is the equivalent of the fear of government on the right. It's amusing to me. The left looks to demonize the private sector and the right looks to demonize the public sector.

If you think that oil companies have the power to keep diesel cars from being produced and sold in the United States, you're deluding yourself.

First of all, diesel makes money for them, too. They sell diesel in Europe and make money on it. So they can do that here too, if there was the demand for it.

The real reason that you don't see too many diesel vehicles is simple. Consumers don't want them. Even the European companies that make diesels and sell them in their home markets do not, for the most part, sell them here. Why? Because they don't sell well. Oh, sure, there are a few people who buy diesels for their trucks, and a few Mercedes owners who buy them. But diesel is not popular here in the United States. Until that changes, you can blame the oil companies all you want, but you're barking up the wrong tree.
OOh, OOH, pick me, pick me. My hand's up on #2. Am I right? Am I right?

BTW, I don't buy any of those other explanations really. Could have something to do with them, but mostly it's just a matter of following the money.
There is some good points in the argument against diesels in the U.S. Unfortunately, we consumers will not get to have a voice in what will be marketed in the United States.

Mercedes did not want to import the SMART car due to their image as a luxury car. Mercedes did not like the idea of the Economical SMART car gave our consumers. I am not saying that the SMART car is breaking records in their sales but it does give us a choice.

VW, and I think, Audi, have several models of clean diesels. A relative wanted a VW TDI wagon and had to wait several months to get one as they were back ordered. The car is fast, quiet, and not your typical diesel of the 60's.

The U.S. government needs to encourage clean diesel vehicles just as it has hybrid vehicles. Combining a clean diesel and hybrid technology makes sense to me.

How about giving financial aid to American Car Manufacturers that are willing to step out and risk developing a variety of more fuel efficient vehicles. This makes more sense to me than just handing them "bailout money."

I vote for choices including hybrid, clean diesel, electric, and vehicles running on natural gas or even fuel cell vehicles once they solve the distribution problems.
Oh, that's sad news. i bet a lot of people are waiting for it to come to US. But I do agree that it really is an awesome car since amidst its size, it's still running fast and performing great. the new design is also good coupled with durable ford parts
"Now everybody who thinks they won't do it because the oil companies wouldn't like it, raise your hands."

(hand in the air waving, waving, waving)
"The only problem I see with this car is that it would not be practical in rural areas that have freezing sometime below zero temps." I live in the cold, snowy NE and BOTH of our diesel cars work just fine year round!
I remember in the old days in cold, cold, weather you had to keep it heated. Plus it always sounded like it was out of tune when you first take off, even though it wasn't, because I was driving. I have never owned one, put my friends truck is diesel, and he loves it. So, whats the problem. The greenies?
I didn't see it specifically mentioned here, but "clean diesel" is a particular blend of diesel that doesn't have the sulfur and other crud that clogs up the fine-vapor super injectors used in the 70+ mpg European diesel cars.

VW has had a 70 mpg diesel car in Europe for a few years now.

The problem isn't that diesel engines don't meet America's emission needs, it's that American diesel doesn't meet modern fueling needs, which is the direct result of oil conglomerate lobbying.

BMW is showing off a 100 mpg diesel hybrid concept. Without a change in the American fuel blend, though, we won't see it.
Sigh. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I owned a diesel Rabbit in the '70's. I liked it, and at the time diesel was cheaper than gas. Fitted with 2 tanks I could drive down to Mexico to fill-up. I think I averaged around 30-35 mpg.

Fast forward to 2006 when I bought a Prius. Back seats down I could carry a 27 speed bike and camping equipment for 2 for a couple of months on the road. The Prius, now with 60,000 miles averages around 48 mpg.

However, if Ford could get that ECOnetic into the States, I probably would consider trading in the Prius. If and if I could carry the same stuff I could get into the Prius.
Diesel is awesome. Both my vehicles are diesel. They get great mileage and last forever. Ford is being very shortsighted.

Good post.
I think one of the reasons why ford sells a lot of its cars to Europe and only limited ones to the states is because there are more ford repair shop in Europe than the states. Fixing electric cars are different from fixing gas fueled cars and mechanics are still needing to cope up with the changes in repair procedures but I think once the mechanic from states become educated about this, they will start focusing on electric cars since it is already becoming the trend for this field