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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do diesels compete with high mileage gasoline burners? Maybe, maybe not.


The oh-so-positive story that VW spins about its clean-diesel technology has been proven to be lies by the EPA. VW diesels built from 2009 on spew far more pollutants out the tailpipe than claimed. Sophisticated software shuts down much of the pollution control system whenever these cars are driven on the road rather than simply being tested. Turning off the pollution control equipment allows these cars to deliver improved power and fuel mileage. There is a recall now in place and sales have been halted in Ontario. Until this software issue is settled, I can no longer advise anyone to buy a VW diesel.

Message sent by a VW salesperson. No TDIs for sale.
For more information, read: VW Is Said to Cheat on Diesel Emissions; U.S. to Order Big Recall
and Volkswagen Chief Apologizes for Breach of Trust After Recall.

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Recently, I came across an article questioning the value of diesel powered cars in today's auto market. The author pointed out that there are now gasoline powered cars that deliver fuel mileage similar to my VW Jetta but without the additional purchase cost.

Cost and availability or diesel fuel

First, the author discussed the cost of diesel fuel compared to gasoline. In the States, it seems diesel often costs more than gas. I have not found this to be the case in London, Ontario, Canada. When the price of a barrel of oil climbs, the cost of gas soars above $1.30 at the pump. At these times, I have found diesel priced less than gas. 

Sometimes I pay a premium for diesel and other times I don't. For the past few weeks I've been paying almost 20-cents less for diesel that I would have had to pay for regular gasoline. It seems diesel is more in the cold months and less in the warm ones. It's June as I write this. My records show that over the almost five years I've owned the car, it would not have made a meaningful difference if I been buying gasoline rather than diesel.

Has it been difficult finding diesel? In a word: No. Even the local grocery store fuel bar carries diesel and if you buy your fuel from at the gas bar, the grocery stores gives bonus coupons which are good for buying groceries. One of the Costco outlets has a fuel bar with a diesel pump on every lane. There are lots of stations carrying diesel in London.

Cost of a diesel vehicle compared to that of an efficient gasoline engined cars

O.K., here the gasoline powered cars pull ahead, but only if you don't take vehicle size into consideration. This can be a case of comparing apples and oranges. The new, larger Jetta is not playing in the same league as the Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, Smart ForTwo Coupe, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus or any of the other cars in the article's list.

I carry big people in my Jetta. They need leg room. The Jetta TDI provides it in both the front and the rear. And my trunk is huge. If you need room, lots of room, you may find you need more car than a Fiesta.

Insurance

I haven't done an extensive search of insurance costs as they apply to a variety of cars but I have done a small one. When buying my Jetta, I thought to call my insurance agent and get a quote for each of the cars under consideration. There was a Ford and a Honda on my short list. The Jetta cost less to insure, according to my agent, than both those other cars.

This was not a deciding factor in making my purchase but it did figure into my calculations.

Tailpipe emissions

Even after dieselgate, I feel greener driving my Jetta diesel than when I was driving my natural gas powered Pontiac Grand Prix some years back. Now, there was a polluting monster. (No slight to GM; I had the car switched to NG using a kit purchased from my local natural gas supplier.)

Conclusion

Depending on what you demand from a car, a diesel may offer some benefits. The most obvious benefit is the high mileage, especially when used on the highway. My Jetta TDI has delivered more than 60 mpg (Imp.) on the highway and it averages better than 41 mpg (Imp.) consistently.

This high mileage is delivered by a relatively large car. Check out the new VW Passat TDI. It is a big car. If the big Passat comes with too big a price, there is always the Jetta TDI to consider. A smaller car with a smaller price tag.

New diesels are quite fun to drive, certainly more so than many hybrids, in my opinion. That said, thanks to dieselgate I'm considering a hybrid Audi Sportback e-tron as my next car. Green is important to me.

For more info on owning a new VW Jetta TDI check my other post: Long Term Ownership Review: 2011 VW Jetta TDI.

Or do your own comparison of similar sized cars competing for you dollar. I feel the Ford Fusion competes directly with the new VW Jetta. Its a tough call in some ways, but I believe the Jetta comes out ahead.

With the Internet it is now easy to compare different cars before buying.

Although the Jetta costs more, when I priced a Fusion loan, I was asked to pay $56 more every month for 60 months to drive the compact Ford. This is because with the Jetta payback plan I have a balloon payment waiting at the end of the five year loan period. Win some every month; Lose some at the end.

Thanks to the fuel mileage I have been getting, I believe I would spend at least $500 more every year on fuel with the Ford. (This is based on info gleaned from a friend who owns a Fusion.) I know my insurance would have been more with the Ford. On the downside, I believe my VW has its transmission fluid and filter changed much earlier than even a hard-driven Fusion. This increases ownership costs somewhat.

When all costs are crunched, I figure the VW will probably cost me a little extra money but the longer I drive my Jetta the tighter the numbers. The big determining factor will be the residual value of my Jetta when it comes time to buy a replacement car. This number was supposed to remain a big unknown for many years but thanks to dieselgate I may know the value of aging car come July 2016.

If you have gotten this far, you might also be interested in the article Diesel: The Dark-Horse Contender For Greener, Cleaner Cars.

3 comments:

  1. I don't think so.Diesel cars costs higher than petrol cars but there average is higher than petrol cars and power is less and if we compare them with gas cars then they will always give less mileage.

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  2. Yes, it provides high mileage with gas engine cars, but the performance of the car will be low. The maintenance of diesel cars are difficult and so it should be maintained at regular basis. The diesel cars are said to be fuel efficient cars. Car Highest Mileage

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  3. My Jetta now has just more than 42,000 kms. It is costing 8.1 cents/km. for fuel and a bonus has been the cost of diesel fuel. It has tended to cost less for diesel than gasoline in my area (London, Ontario) since I took delivery of my car. My wife and I plus another couple loaded the Jetta with a pile of luggage and traveled to Montreal late this summer. We filled up in London and we didn't stop for more fuel until we were near Montreal. We didn't have to stop for fuel again until we were back in London. Clearly anyone who does a lot of highway driving can make a good case for buying a diesel. The big question in my mind is durability and maintenance costs. A Jetta TDI is a rather high-tech car. If the quality is not there, some downright frightening repair costs will be front and centre. I've got my fingers crossed. All that said, I am loving the torque that my diesel delivers right off the line. In the city that torque makes for a fun car when driving from traffic light to traffic light.

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