Friday, March 06, 2009

There's a diesel Fiesta in Europe

...and you're not invited, American. You can't have it. It gets 65 mpg and does 0-60 in 12 seconds, which is plenty fast when you're getting 65 mpg (up to 73 mpg on the highway). It's called the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, and it is an updated version for this year of the popular Ford Fiesta diesel that has been available in Europe for years. In fact, the existing European diesel Ford Fiesta is so popular, it has fan clubs (including a Croatian chapter). Can you imagine fan clubs for the Ford Fiesta in the United States? Please... but if we had the diesel model here (which has been an option in Europe and many other places around the world since 1983), you might see just that, especially among the biodiesel/veggie oil set!

But the Ford Fiesta is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the diesel party in Europe involving American-made-and-branded cars. The Chrysler corporation (formerly Daimler-Chrysler) offers a dozen Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models for sale in Europe that feature diesel engines and -- get this -- achieve over 35 mpg on average! I mean, just think about that -- it's no secret that I think that Chryslers and Dodges are some of the worst vehicles on the road, with abysmal fuel economy and horrible maintenance histories. Yet, you slap a Mercedes diesel under the hood, and all of a sudden those vehicles don't look like such dogs any longer. Heck, a diesel Jeep sounds like a downright cool vehicle -- not as a daily driver, perhaps, but certainly for, you know, off-road excursions, snowy adventures, etc... especially a diesel Jeep with a Mercedes diesel under the hood! (Note: Some of the vehicles also feature the supremely efficient Volkswagen diesels.) From the U.S. perspective, it was certainly hard to see any effect that the partnership with Mercedes had on Chrysler during its duration -- but once you learn of these models, it all becomes clear. But, why can't we get those vehicles in the United States?

The automakers will claim that, due to California and EPA emissions requirements, they can't make a diesel clean enough to meet U.S. regulations. I call bullshit. I think there's something else going on -- they're afraid to sell such efficient vehicles here, because it might prove that they can actually make really efficient vehicles if they want to, and if Congress ever finds out, they might require the U.S. fleet to achieve vastly better fuel economy than 35 mpg by the year 2020... something that the U.S. auto industry is, strangely, opposed to.

I expect this to all change within the next couple of years, however. By 2011, I predict that we will begin to see a whole new array of high-mileage clean diesel vehicles that get much more than 35 mpg sold in the United States.

Heck, maybe one of them will even be a diesel-electric hybrid!