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View Diary: WTF with Diesel! (94 comments)

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  •  Emissions regulations bar many diesels.. (0+ / 0-)

    ...from the U.S. market.

    For example, Chrysler is currently selling several vehicles in Europe with VW-supplied diesel engines, but cannot sell those "American" cars (they're actually assembled in Austria, but other than the powerplants, they're identical to U.S. models) in America because of pollution regulations on diesel engines, which were made much stricter over the last couple of years.

    Chrysler dealers here in the states probably wish they could get access to those diesel Dodge Journeys and Chrysler Sebrings.

    Americans did buy diesels once upon a time, but one bad apple really spoiled alot of people on them - the GM 350 Diesel V8.  This Oldsmobile engine was derived from the gasoline "rocket" V8 that dated to 1949, and the transition to a diesel powerplant was underengineered.  The engine gave remarkable power and smoothness, and a very short glow-plug wait time for a diesel of 1977 vintage, but it had alot of problems.  Cracked cylinder heads, head gasket failures, block cracks - it was not one of GM's finer moments.

    GM also used this engine in a variety of products from all five car divisions, so the damage was widespread once it became public that the diesel 350 was more like the "die easily 350."

    GM did learn from this mistake - introducing a new Diesel V6 in 1982, but by then it was too late.  Fuel prices were falling and interest in diesel cars was fading quickly.

    Interestingly, GM also unveiled a cylinder deactivation system in the 1981 Cadillacs, which was designed to be a flex-demand system similar to modern cars with this fuel-saving feature.  But the engine management systems of 1981 just weren't very sophisticated by today's standards, and lacked the processing power to do this properly.  The supplier, Eaton, cost Cadillac alot in bad press over what should have been a huge leap in technology. Most of the V-4-6-8 cars were recalled to have the system deactivated and '81 Cadillacs remained sales-lot pariahs for years.

    GM has learned alot since those early failures, and it does not experience technical foul-ups of this kind in any way - so please don't take the events of 25-30 years ago as an indication of where things stand today.

    It bothers me though, when I hear people say "GM never did anything for anyone."  GM also introduced the air-bag on production cars, in 1971.

    It should be noted that we as consumers have never given Detroit a concrete reason to stick with smaller cars - after the 1973 Opec crisis we abandoned big cars, but by 1976 big cars like the Chevrolet Impala (then a 223 inch, 4300 lb behemoth) were the top sellers again.  After 1979 we threw away full-sized cars, for the most part, butt migrated gradually to SUV's, despite plenty of good choices among smaller cars.  

    We need to make sure that this time, as gas prices are now just $2.11 a few miles from me, we don't forget the lessons of those earlier crises.

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    Also, in response to another comment, all diesel cars have been fuel-injected for decades.  You may be thinking of Direct Injection, which improves he combustion process for smoother operation.

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