25 Nov 2015

Are These The Glory Days of Diesel?

Opinion Series

By Contributing Editor, Tony Gauntner

Several months ago that query was bandied about by our own Super Producer Jay Dalton. Ninety nine percent of all automotive gurus would have voted affirmatively, as diesel being today’s go-to, high-energy, alternative fuel source. Drivers Talk Radio had invited Allen Schaeffer,Executive Director of The Diesel Technology Forum to discuss the current state of fuel pricing issues and to get his perspective on the current and future trends of utilizing diesel technology as a power source. In Schaeffer’s opinion, the factors that have contributed to the current industry strategy causing fuel pricing to stabilize uncharacteristically near or below gasoline can be directly attributed to three primary factors: 1)  excess supply created a “glut” driving prices lower. 2) demand for all fuels has decreased.  3) oil prices have intentionally been suppressed. It’s very rare for these market actions to happen concurrently, so in essence it appears we have all the elements of a perfect storm impacting the prices at the pump. However that’s when diesels were fashionable.  Chevrolet’s Cruz, Jeep’s full lineup, the Ford Transit Van and GM’s twin mid size pickups, all elected to offer the diesel Powertrain option.

Remember that old saying “Timing is everything?” How true that worn out old cliché is. When the OEM’s signed off on their plans to offer a diesel option, four dollar per gallon fuel prices were draining our wallets. Actually both gas and oil burners were near that delta. Even with OPEC’s crystal ball we couldn’t foresee receiving the gift of slicing prices nearly in half.  It’s like Wal-Mart’s bouncing yellow smiley face that cuts prices…. hit the Sultans of OPEC in the head. Today they are holding fuel prices steady;  sometimes cheaper than bottled water, and twice as tasty.

Like your momma said, watch what you wish for.

Well lightening does strike twice and when it does, it burns badly. Plunging gasoline prices really discourage consumers to pony up the thousands in premium pricing to get the improved fuel mileage that diesels produce. Then comes Dieslgate, brought to you by VW. That stain has tarnished most diesel powered automobile sales across the board.

Oh VW… bad boys, bad boys what you going to do, what’s you going to do when the EPA catches you? For starters your CEO and a handful of other assorted hooligans were given the boot by you, but just for appearances.  Early speculation indicates that repairs, fines and vehicle buy-backs could exceed 30 billion dollars. Perhaps that number will get your attention.

VW has tried everything to “save face” starting with denial. Then they claimed the brains behind the secret software was a strategy cooked up by two low level engineers that made their little German jet packs burn clean. Will someone please tell Stuttgart our EPA wasn’t born yesterday?   On the other hand, where has the EPA been all these years while V-Dub has been pulling the wool?

Glory Days

Well the glory days of diesel have turned to the dark days. October sales of diesel equipped passenger cars in the land of the free, home of the brave have plunged 88%. BMW 3 and 5 Series are both down for the month. Ouch.  The exception is Mercedes E Class, and they were up 20%.  And, our light duty, diesel trucks supplied by the Detroit 3 were also up. Thank God for those one-percenters that fuel our economy.

This Dieselgate scandal has hurt the entire industry, albeit temporarily. We’re a forgiving society that believes in giving second chances. But VW, don’t let us catch you with your hand in Uncle Sam’s cookie jar ever again.

Bruce Springsteen, let’s hear you sing “Glory Days” one more time please.

Watch Rick and Jay’s Diesel discussion on episode 794 of Drivers Talk Radio!


Tony Gauntner
Contributing Editor
Drivers Talk Radio

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