The passenger car diesel market may be almost non-existent in the U.S., but perhaps it just needs a little coaxing. Fuel injector giant Robert Bosch GmbH demonstrates that new-generation diesels are “Good Clean Fun” in a press event last month at its Flat Rock, MI, proving ground.

The supplier wasn't alone. BMW AG, DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Volkswagen AG provided 13 European diesel cars for the event, most of them unavailable to U.S. buyers.

Automakers and suppliers are anxious to change long-held beliefs in the U.S. that diesel engines are dirty, slow and noisy. By showing off the latest technology to media opinion-shapers, they hope to promote the notion that diesels are a viable — if not superior — alternative to achieve the same goals set forth for hybrids and other high-tech but unproven powertrain advances (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.34).

In Europe last year, 30% of new cars were fitted with diesels, and projections have diesels on pace to reach 45% penetration by 2005. Two critical advances — direct injection and so-called “common-rail” fuel-delivery — bring diesel into the high-tech age.

Pamela Jones of the Diesel Technology Forum says, at the Bosch event, that the difference between European and American perceptions of diesel comes down to science, politics and priorities. And ultimately, she says, Americans are denied the advantages of new-generation diesels: the driveability, the reduction in greenhouse gases and the reduced dependence on foreign oil.