An Open Response To Richard Aucock

The Spie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2010
Messages
2,013
Location
Chicagoan In Exile
Car(s)
2008 Honda Fit Sport
Suckcock's put out an incredible piece of drivel, even for him, on the BBC's "new" Autos section of its website. The drivel in full: http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20130109-why-do-americans-not-buy-diesels

If I may, let me counter him point-by-point:

Suckcock said:
So why would more Americans not drive diesels?
Well, let's just go over to the gas station by me here in Middle America, shall we? 87 octane, $3.13 a gallon. Diesel, $4.08 a gallon. And a base-model diesel Passat is $5500 more than its petrol equivalent (go over to Edmunds to compare prices). There's two big hints right there.

?But what do Britons know about our market?? an American might opine. Quite a lot.
Apparently, you don't, if you didn't bother to research the two salient facts I cited above.

In significant ways, the diesel market in the US is similar to that of the UK three decades ago.
So you had high-end Vauxhalls with diesel engines that were badly retrofitted from petrol engines, like we had Oldsmobiles and Buicks, ones that ended up killing the market for diesels for a generation? I don't think you did.

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.
Except for one little thing: Americans who drove diesels at the time weren't regarded as outcasts. They were regarded as pickup-truck owners. And considering how many pickups are on the road here, both then and now...

And that presumed diesel drivers could even find somewhere to fill up, as not every filling station bothered to stock their fuel.
Well, that's true here today, especially in urban areas with a shortage of said pickups.

This sheer lack of availability led to great variability in pricing.
This may surprise you, Richard, but diesel prices here are actually pretty consistent. The variability of diesel prices you cite in your link to AAA later on is identical to the variability of petrol prices from state to state, area to area, urban to rural. It isn't due to availability per se. It's due to taxes.

But with more diesel purchasers, the laws of the marketplace would kick in, bringing prices into greater alignment.
No, it won't. You apparently aren't aware of our highly variable and Byzantine fuel tax structure here. See above.

Given the need for low-sulfur refining, diesel would not necessarily become cheaper than premium in the US.
The only time that happens is when our refining capacity takes a major hit, like in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Otherwise, it never is. In fact, diesel prices are far less elastic than petrol prices are. They go high, they stay high.

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.
Except that you're now talking about the dominion of $3 gallons, aren't you? And if diesel is 33% higher cost than petrol, that mileage difference is pissed away. Given the lesser overhead and maintenance costs of a petrol engine, there's no advantage.

Even our EU 6 standards, due in 2015, do not quite match the States? strict limits on smog- and acid rain-causing emissions.
You also didn't bring up the fact that we don't tax on CO2 like Europe does. There goes diesel's last advantage.

Relative to a gasoline-burning engine, it is more difficult to control NOx in a diesel, which is why, to meet those comparatively stricter emissions limits, diesels in the US are required to use expensive, onboard after-treatment systems, which decrease the amount of particulate matter that leaves the tailpipe. Diesel engines are already more expensive to develop than gasoline units, given their turbos and complex injection systems. After-treatment systems make them even pricier.
So then why bother bringing them to a country that prioritizes NOx and smog particulate emissions control over CO2? And, again, these systems have to be maintained. Or do you believe that all of us colonials keeps flocks of sheep whose pee we can harvest to put into our diesel emission control systems?

Here?s the thing: It?s worth it.
In what single way is it worth it? It doesn't make sense economically for us, and that's what we prioritize: Value For Money.

Diesel used to be a dirty fuel and a dirty word,
It still is here.

but recent technologies have addressed both problems, which is why the world outside the United States thinks of the choice between gasoline and diesel as a foregone conclusion.
You also don't mind if your cars belch, stink, and emit sounds like mating rhinos. Maybe we're a little more refined than you in the taste department.

And even with the additional costs, passed on to the consumer, of emissions compliance equipment,
And who says we want the costs passed on to us? We've shown we're not willing to pay extra for this. Again, Suckcock, Value For Money Is King In America. Keep repeating that to yourself, and maybe you'll come to understand it.

the sensory pleasures of a diesel-powered vehicle are difficult to deny.
There are sensory pleasures to be had in a slaughterhouse as well. I've worked in many of them, so I can tell you that. However, you might not consider them to be pleasures. We don't consider the sensory output of diesels to be pleasures.

It is high time, America, to give diesels a better look.
And who's going to take the financial risk to spend the money to add the additional equipment to bring them in line with EPA guidelines, certify the engines (about $400K per powerplant, viz. Spectre), and then try to sell them to a public that's already rejected diesel a couple of times? If we don't have them, we can't buy them, and no car company is going to take a chance in this economy to sell them to us. Mercedes and VW are selling as many diesels as we apparently want right now. There's no need for any more. If Ford isn't going to bother, than no one else will.

This man gets a paycheck from the BBC to write this nonsense. The mind boggles.

(Just to clear this up, no, I am not Euro-baiting. The diesel defenders here tend to do a very good job in doing so and trying to sell us benighted Americans on their benefits, especially the ever-so-systematic Germans. This piece, though, posted on the official website of the world's largest broadcast organization, is one of the worst and deserves mocking both for its status, the status of its author, and its incredible idiocy.)
 
Last edited:

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
DONOR
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
18,172
Location
Kiel/Wherever, Germany
Car(s)
'19 BMW M240i
Apparently a third of all Passats sold over there are TDIs :dunno: who's buying them if they and their satan juice are so expensive and Americans only value value for money?
 

_HighVoltage_

Captain Volvo
Joined
Aug 5, 2006
Messages
9,964
Car(s)
1998 Volvo S70 T5M
The Spie, your rant is unnecessarily long. You just need to bring up the point about fuel prices and your argument is pretty much complete. When gas is so cheap, why the hell would I even consider diesel? I'm happy with my car getting 25-30MPG, but also having decent power. If I wanted to save on fuel, there are gas powered cars out there delivering 40MPG. A diesel may get 50MPG, but as you pointed out - it's almost a dollar more per gallon, and the car costs more upfront.

And if it's not about money - again I ask - why the hell would I want a diesel? What's the problem with gasoline? None. There you go. Moving on.
 

The Spie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2010
Messages
2,013
Location
Chicagoan In Exile
Car(s)
2008 Honda Fit Sport
I could have, HV, except that this piece was so bone-headedly wrong in every single respect that it needed to be torn down in a systematic and thorough fashion. You're absolutely right, though. It boils down to money, and that's where the argument for diesel breaks down completely. As for the Passats, one-third of a small number is an even smaller number. They're not as omnipresent here.

Both narf and Suckcock are demonstrating that mammoth blind spot that a lot of Europeans have when it comes to the US: things are vastly different here. You can't apply conditions in the EU and say that they apply or can apply in the US. narf, though, is a billion times better at realizing this than Aucock. At least when we explain things to narf, he listens.

There is a case to be made for diesel in the US. Aucock's article isn't it.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
DONOR
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
18,172
Location
Kiel/Wherever, Germany
Car(s)
'19 BMW M240i
As for the Passats, one-third of a small number is an even smaller number. They're not as omnipresent here.
One third is a huge fraction though. I'm not sure about the Passat in particular, but overall about half the new cars registered here are diesels. Being a large car (in our terms), the fraction of diesels should be higher for the Passat - maybe two thirds :dunno:

Seeing how unpopular diesel appears to be for passenger cars over here, getting half the fraction as over here is incredibly high.



PS: That low overall number is growing, apparently VW sold 35.1% more cars in the US in 2012 than in 2011. Sure, a small number times 1.351 still is a small number - but it's a lot less small.
 

_HighVoltage_

Captain Volvo
Joined
Aug 5, 2006
Messages
9,964
Car(s)
1998 Volvo S70 T5M
And to put an even bigger perspective on the cost of fuel, I will give a personal example.

When I was working 2 years ago (I'm in grad school now, so things are a bit different...), I was making ~$150 per day (after taxes). A full tank of gas (18 gallons at that) cost me a little over $40. Do you think I gave a damn what gas mileage I was getting?

With gas prices and salaries in Europe I understand the argument for diesel over there. Here, it just doesn't make sense.
 

prizrak

Forum Addict
Joined
Apr 2, 2007
Messages
20,962
Location
No, sleep, till, BROOKLYN
Car(s)
11 Xterra Pro-4x, 12 'stang GT
@The Spie you missed BMW, they sell some diseasels here.

- - - Updated - - -

One third is a huge fraction though. I'm not sure about the Passat in particular, but overall about half the new cars registered here are diesels. Being a large car (in our terms), the fraction of diesels should be higher for the Passat - maybe two thirds :dunno:

Seeing how unpopular diesel appears to be for passenger cars over here, getting half the fraction as over here is incredibly high.



PS: That low overall number is growing, apparently VW sold 35.1% more cars in the US in 2012 than in 2011. Sure, a small number times 1.351 still is a small number - but it's a lot less small.
It's a tiny fraction of the overall market though, but if the TDI's (and other diesel cars) are going to do well other companies will bring the cars over.
 

Finnley

Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2010
Messages
79
Location
Belgium
Car(s)
520d
It's just all about money (as are most things). Here in Belgium, diesel is about 6% cheaper than petrol. As a result, after driving a certain amount of km's/mls you reach a point where the fuel price compensates for a higher car price.

In 2011, 75% of cars registered in Belgium were diesel cars. As can be seen in this quite intresting file:
Link
 

Spectre

The Deported
Joined
Feb 1, 2007
Messages
36,835
Location
Dallas, Texas
Car(s)
00 4Runner | 02 919 | 87 XJ6 | 86 CB700SC
Don't forget that the diesel 'popularity' in Europe is pretty much driven by high taxes on 'petrol'. The reverse is the case here - diesel production and sales are somewhat heavily taxed, since the government figured out the transport industry *must* have diesel to work and therefore is a secure income stream. Diesel is actually cheaper to make in a refinery than gasoline assuming similar quantities of production (assuming you're just making a reference fuel and not taking into account additives, mandated fuel composition idiocy, summer/winter blending, etc., etc.)

It should also be pointed out that the number of people that want diesel cars seems to be rather inelastic in the US market and the current offerings seem to have soaked up most all of them. BMW's diesel offerings have not been well received; the Mercedes/Chrysler diesel offerings were rejected by the marketplace and were killed off. Sales of the diesel E-class, the only Merc sedan sold with a diesel here, have been flat for years - good enough to keep selling it, not good enough to introduce a new diesel S or C.
 
Last edited:

Cobol74

Forum Addict
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Messages
17,507
Location
The banana republic of Ukania
Car(s)
Honda Accord 2.2 i-Dtec Sport Estate.Hyundai Ix20
I like my Accord Diesel as I liked my Pug 406 Diesel before it. I was less impressed by my Vauxhall Zafira & Auto box however. Diesel is more expensive here by about 8 - 10 pence per litre (1.28 - 1.38 GBP) roughly, and the new cars are a bit (1500 to 2200GBP) more usually. Still if doing a lot of miles per year it can make financial sense and it is brilliant on the motor way (Freeway). They are way better with the low sulphur 'brew' and the common rail technology, my 70,000 mile Honda does not smoke at all, than they used to be.

But it took years and years to get Ukanians interested in them, continental europe was way ahead of us in this respect. They have even got rid of the annoying diesel clatter you used to get when cold. Still if Americans do not want them then they do not have to have them - it is chicken and egg really.
 
Last edited:

EyeMWing

Forum Addict
Joined
Nov 17, 2008
Messages
5,048
Location
MD, Amish Country PA
Car(s)
Many things, none of them working.
One third is a huge fraction though. I'm not sure about the Passat in particular, but overall about half the new cars registered here are diesels. Being a large car (in our terms), the fraction of diesels should be higher for the Passat - maybe two thirds :dunno:
The root of the problem is that a large volume of Americans don't care about, cannot do, or can be talked past simple economic reality. In other words, car buyers are dumb and salesmen lie.
 

Luca

is meh.
Joined
Dec 12, 2006
Messages
630
Location
Vienna, ?sterreich
Maybe we're a little more refined than you in the taste department.


Also most euro countries have 95 RON as regular. Thats like your 91 AKI Premium I think. Not denying there is a significant gap but it appears here and there in the US diesel can also be found below 4$

I think lowering the tax on diesel + if it were more popular, the price would come down? Still there would be the problem of higher buying costs for the car.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
DONOR
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
18,172
Location
Kiel/Wherever, Germany
Car(s)
'19 BMW M240i
Also most euro countries have 95 RON as regular. Thats like your 91 AKI Premium I think.
Euro 95 ("Super") is roughly the same rating as US 90, Euro 98 ("Super plus") is US 93.
You can still get Euro 91 ("Normalbenzin") around here at some stations for the same price as Euro 95, it's equivalent in octane rating to US 87.
 

The Spie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2010
Messages
2,013
Location
Chicagoan In Exile
Car(s)
2008 Honda Fit Sport
Also most euro countries have 95 RON as regular. Thats like your 91 AKI Premium I think.
Yes, it is. However, in most places, our premium is 93 AKI, not 91 (you can find 91 in mountain areas like Colorado, for instance). That's the equivalent of your 98 RON. And the price difference between 87 and 93 is usually $.20 per gallon. So a very large price gap still exists between petrol and diesel.

(ETA since narf and I posted at the same time: we usually use odd numbers here for octane rating except for things like racing fuel. So, at the pump, what we have is 85, 87, 89, 91, and 93. And, yes, I've seen a very weird station in Chicago that has all five.)

Not denying there is a significant gap but it appears here and there in the US diesel can also be found below 4$
And it all depends how much local taxes are. Right now, diesel across the US is averaging right around the $4/gallon mark, while petrol is dropping toward the $3 mark. It's already below $3 in many states. In other words, the price difference everywhere is still roughly $1/gallon.

I think lowering the tax on diesel + if it were more popular, the price would come down?
Lowering the taxes might decrease the price. Popularity would require more omnipresence, which technically should lower price due to increased competition between filling stations. That's Economics 101.

Still there would be the problem of higher buying costs for the car.
And that's a killer. Remember that for us, the price tag on the sticker is more important than what's inside. We buy cars to a budget. We don't fit our budget into buying a car. There are exceptions, of course, like a very high percentage of Americans here, but we're enthusiasts and we know what we're buying. For most Americans, a car really is an appliance.

Not realizing this is where Aucock falls down. The gap of understanding between British Enthusiast and Average American is too great for him to get a handle on it.
 
Last edited:

Cobol74

Forum Addict
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Messages
17,507
Location
The banana republic of Ukania
Car(s)
Honda Accord 2.2 i-Dtec Sport Estate.Hyundai Ix20
Your price difference (3 - 4USD) makes the diesel option a non starter, never mind the more expensive vehicle in the first place, pity. I think our differential is all that the market can stand really any more and it would pay no one to buy diesel, over here it is not tax causing the difference I understand, but the greed of the Oil companies. They charge what the market will stand - competition my arse.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
DONOR
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
18,172
Location
Kiel/Wherever, Germany
Car(s)
'19 BMW M240i
(ETA since narf and I posted at the same time: we usually use odd numbers here for octane rating except for things like racing fuel. So, at the pump, what we have is 85, 87, 89, 91, and 93. And, yes, I've seen a very weird station in Chicago that has all five.)
I was converting between research octane number and whatever you guys use, I didn't care about actual availability in your region. Besides, apparently even numbered ratings at regular pumps exists:

 

Spectre

The Deported
Joined
Feb 1, 2007
Messages
36,835
Location
Dallas, Texas
Car(s)
00 4Runner | 02 919 | 87 XJ6 | 86 CB700SC


Also most euro countries have 95 RON as regular. Thats like your 91 AKI Premium I think. Not denying there is a significant gap but it appears here and there in the US diesel can also be found below 4$

I think lowering the tax on diesel + if it were more popular, the price would come down? Still there would be the problem of higher buying costs for the car.
Another problem for US diesel acceptance is higher maintenance costs for the diesel. The oil change prices alone are considerably higher for most diesel vehicles, even given equivalent size engines just to start. Other maintenance costs are also higher in terms of parts cost, specialist labor, and diesel exhaust fluid.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
DONOR
Joined
Feb 1, 2008
Messages
18,172
Location
Kiel/Wherever, Germany
Car(s)
'19 BMW M240i
Another problem for US diesel acceptance is higher maintenance costs for the diesel. The oil change prices alone are considerably higher for most diesel vehicles, even given equivalent size engines just to start. Other maintenance costs are also higher in terms of parts cost, specialist labor, and diesel exhaust fluid.
On the other hand, my car in TDI guise would only need a service (and oil change) every 50000km as opposed to 30000km in TSI guise.
 
Top