Why don't we get cars like this? (European diesels)

I’ve had a Ford Galaxy 2 as a rental for the past week. Drove all over Europe and have averaged 36 MPG from the spunky diesel engine. How can this be??? This is not an underpowered wimp car! It is a near perfect people moving masterpiece.

The gallons used in Europe are not the same gallons used in the US.

Europeans also have different safety standards.

As a market, Americans don’t want the same things from their vehicles as Europeans. These days, marketing with a “one size fits all” philosophy is not wise. Specific cars are made for specific markets.

I’ve been wondering the same thing re: manual transmissions. People here don’t want them because they can’t text while eating mcdonalds while changing tracks on their ipod while reading the paper while operating the clutch pedal and gear selector.

There are several reasons why diesels have not caught on for passenger cars in the US.

  1. Sticker price is higher for a comperable-looking car on the showroom floor. This is what killed rear wheel drive passenger cars in all but the high-end segments. American car buyers are much more interested in sticker price, cupholders, and iPod interfaces than they are in the engine. Only Volkswagen was ever particularly successful at selling diesels to the masses in this country, and we lost interest in those.

  2. Consumers got burned in the late 1970s by domestic diesels that were made from gasoline engine blocks that were gutless and unreliable, and by Japanese diesels that were reliable, but underpowered. The consumers who would be most likely to buy diesels still remember that.

  3. We pump our own gas here (except in Oregon) and women and metrosexual men don’t like pumping smelly diesel fuel.

  4. It is very difficult to control the NOx and particulate emissions from diesel engines so EPA and California have, for all intents and purposes, declared war on diesels. They are using some pretty questionable toxicology data to justify their actions.

The good news is that we are getting some diesels anyway. Domestic full-sized pickups have offered excellent diesel engines for a number of years for those customers who are willing to pay the premium price. The last time I visited my BMW dealer, about a third of all the 3-series sedans in the lot were diesel. That price range is where you are most likely to see penetration of the market by diesels. Now if they could just make diesel smell better…

Re: US gallons versus British gallons. Valid point - so I only got 29.08 MPG - STILL a whole lot more than my 6 cylinder Chrysler.
Re: Safety- Could the differences really make a huge MPG difference? A 2011 Chrysler mini-van has a combined rating of 18 per the EPA. The Galaxy get 50% better fuel economy.

Of my soccer team driving friends I haven’t found one that wouldn’t love 29 MPG. The driving experience (acceleration and such) is virtually identical.

The Imperial gallon in England is larger than the US gallon, but in the rest of Europe the liter is used and it is not usually confused with either gallon.

[i] Europeans also have different safety standards.[/i]  

True, but I don’t see how that would cause a difference, other than producing cars in two different versions.

That said: Peter, do some more looking into what is available in the US. I have a US spec European make diesel and I average a good deal better than 36 mpg.

Diesel cars in the US are often overlooked and many people are unaware they exist.

However Whitey is 100% correct, most Americans would be turned off by many of the features I personally like, but must US drivers would not. Diesel cars do sell in the US, but not in the same numbers as our domestic models.

As for automatic transmissions, they are available on most European cars today, including diesels.

No, I don’t think safety equipment makes up the whole difference, but it is a contributing factor because of the weight of that equipment.

There are also economic factors to consider. Europeans pay a lot more for fuel, so the additional cost of a diesel engine is worth it for them. Here in the USA, fuel is cheap, and I believe gasoline is currently cheaper than diesel fuel. The costs of owning and operating an anemic little economy car are much lower than owning and operating a small diesel car.

You seem to want it all; fuel economy, power, and overall economy. Most American consumers are willing to sacrifice one or more of the three in favor of other factors.

Re. #2, I thought those diesels were small truck engines that had been poorly adapted for use in cars. I didn’t know they were gasoline engine blocks. That’s new to me.

Re. #3, I believe it is also illegal in NJ to pump your own fuel. Do low sulfur diesel fuel and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel smell as bad as the barely refined diesel fuel of 15 years ago?

I’ve never driven a diesel that I would call “spunky”. The last one I drove ( VW TDI) was pretty underpowered compared to the gas version of the same car (I drove them back to back). You were also getting about 29 MPG if you go by U.S. gallons.

As for why we don’t get cars like that. That’s easy, the majority of people don’t want them. Fuel is relatively cheap here, so it’s not a big deal to have a 250+ HP V6 in your minivan.

You do know that the Mk.II Galaxy is basically a badge engineered VW Sharan, which is wildly considered one of the, if not the, most unreliable vehicle you can buy in Europe. Perhaps your standards of what constitutes a “masterpiece” is a bit more forgiving that most :slight_smile:

Diesel fuel is heavily subsidized in Europe and the UK .Actually it’s less heavily taxed than gasoline which provides an incentive for developing diesel passenger cars .
Drive a diesel in the northern parts of the US and you’ll find one very good reason people don’t care for them - they are cold blooded !! When it’s well below freezing you want an engine that warms up FAST !

I had a BMW 118d as a rental and it had decent acceleration. It took some time to get used to the engine shutting down at every traffic light, though.

I just got back from a trip to Europe (Italy), where I rented both the new Ford Fiesta diesel and its Fiat equivalent, the Punto diesel. I agree about the excellent drivability and torque, especially for the Fiesta, where it had no problem accelerating up tight twisting hilly roads, with minimum of diesel noise and no odor that I detected. A great car.

But…many of the reasons mentioned above will likely keep diesels from making much headway in the US. Also, the Europeans have been, and continue to eliminate the diesel fuel tax advantage, leading to what some see as a long-term decline in diesel sales in the EU.

The two main, and related, reasons they don’t/won’t sell well in the US are emissions (NOx elimination requiring expensive pollution controls on all but the smallest cars) and cost (hard to justify the extra $$ when fuel is ‘cheap’, at least compared to Europe).

Third is folks’ dislike and bad memories associated with the old/stinky/slow/unreliable ( US makers) diesels that were sold years ago, even though they bear no resemblance to modern diesels.

At worst the the 118d you drove had 120 HP, in a car that small it’s probably okay, not great, but tolerable. The OP was riding around in 4000 pound minivan with either a 110 HP or 150 HP diesel, which would be underpowered IMHO. The only 1 series that I’ve ever driven was a U.S. spec 135i with the twin turbo 3 liter. I thought it was excellent.

The current diesel BMW X5 has a supplemental ceramic heating element that kicks in until the engine is warm. I assume some of the other recent diesels have that too.

Count me in as metrosexual then.

I inadvertently pumped diesel in Europe not understanding they had full service (for small fee) and the stench was not worth it. I dripped some on my decent shoes and stank the rest of the trip.

On the other hand the car was an absolute hoot. They gave me a European Honda Accord diesel wagon (twin to Acura TSX in US).

Send a letter to Ford. It is the mfg’s decision on what cars to sell in the US. A current model European diesel car should be able to meet USA standards for emissions and safety with relatively minor changes.

The mfg’s perception is that American’s aren’t going to buy sufficient numbers of cars with diesel motors. VW, MB, Audi, and others sell diesels in the US now and most of the owner’s of these diesel cars that I’ve talked to are very satisfied with the cars and the mpg in particular.

Diesel fuel isn’t as cheap in the US as gasoline and that seems to mitigate one big advantage of the diesel. Still for drivers who spend most of their miles on interstates cruising at 65 - 70 mph a diesel is a much better choice than a hybrid. Sales reps who drive a lot of highway miles per year (like I did) would use a lot less gallons of fuel in a diesel powered car.

U.S. refineries are designed to produce as much gasoline as possible. SOMEBODY has to buy and burn all that gasoline…That somebody is the American Motorist…It’s impossible to convert a large percentage of the domestic car fleet to diesel without the price of diesel fuel skyrocketing…The trucking, farmers, airlines and railroads pay lobbyists lots of money to make sure that doesn’t happen…

It had 143 HP, but also 221 lb-ft torque. It’s no screamer, but I had no trouble keeping up with traffic on the Autobahn.

I think you make an excellent point about selling gasoline here. Shell can send the Diesel to Europe and the gasoline to North America. They encourage us to buy gasoline by charging enough more for diesel that it is less attractive. As more of East Asia drives, maybe they will get more gasoline and we may get more diesel.

I am aware of the American made, gasoline block diesels referred to by Manolito. The most profound example (that sticks out in my mind, anyway) is the Chevrolet 350 diesel. It was installed in full size passenger cars and half ton trucks. Aside from being terribly weak, noisy, smelly, and unreliable, you also couldn’t tow with that engine option in a half ton truck. What’s the point of providing an engine option in a half ton pickup that will not only provide disappointing performance, even compared with the gasoline powered inline six, but will not allow you to tow anything?