Another option under the bonnet

 

There has been a big leap forward in Irish diesel car sales this year. Diesel accounts for almost 15 per cent of total new car registrations which compares with 11.94 per cent last year, and 10 per cent in 200.

But the growing strength of diesel is still small compared with other European markets like France, Italy and even Britain, which was a latter-day convert. Austria, of all European countries, has the highest share of diesel cars on the road.

Significantly, diesel doesn't retail in the biggest car market in the world, the United States. But that's about to change: Mercedes-Benz will reintroduce diesel into its US model line-up with the September launch of its new E-Class.

"We had 400,000 very happy American customers for our diesel cars in the late 1980s and early '90s," says Jurgen Hubbert, the boss of the DaimlerChrysler car division. "They want us to come back with a diesel, and we will do so."

A limited number of the E270 CDi models will be offered in 45 of 50 American states as Mercedes-Benz assesses consumer reaction. Depending on that, there could be a bigger choice with the M-Class and S-Class also being offered with diesel options.

One of the five states not taking diesel is California. Emission regulations prevent diesel cars being sold there.

Jurgen Hubbert admits that there's a huge difficulty in overcoming the American perception of diesel engines as smelly, noisy and even unreliable: "The new common-rail engines have nothing in common with what American drivers might associate with the diesels of their day. They are powerful, sporty, agile and offer an enormous amount of torque." Even more torque and power will be offered on AMG diesel versions, currently under development at the Mercedes-Benz tuning specialist. AMG is planning race cars.

Mercedes-Benz expects to sell 43 per cent of its car output worldwide with diesel engines this year. Better fuel economy and cheaper diesel prices are the driving factors in most markets.

Those factors don't, of course, pertain in the United States. Diesel and petrol prices are roughly the same and fuel economy isn't a big issue.

According to Jurgen Hubbert, "we know all this doesn't help diesel's reintroduction but we still think the American market is ripe for another try."