Wednesday, February 1, 2006
As enthusiasts, we should all hope for strong diesel vehicle sales, and for diesel light-trucks and passenger cars to go on sale as soon as possible. You may think I'm just a diesel fanatic that wants the nation's roads humming with these oil-burners. Well, yes and no. While intrigued by modern diesel technology, and eagerly anticipating some upcoming models, I don't currently drive a diesel vehicle and don't have the budget or space for a 3/4-ton diesel beast in my driveway.

So why am I on a diesel crusade? CAFE standards. And I'm not talking about the public health placard hanging in the window of the neighborhood Starbucks. Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards are administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, based on data recorded by the EPA. I don't have the space or patience to go into all the excrutiating minutiae of the rules, regulations and formulas used. If you want to check it out for yourself, click here. But in a nutshell, CAFE standards are the minimum fleet average fuel economy standards for a manufacturer. It is based on the number of vehicles produced in a given year by a manufacturer, and the combined fuel economy ratings of those vehicles.

Although the big bruiser Duramaxes, Cummins and Power Strokes certainly beneift their owners by providing higher mileage than their gasoline counterparts, they don't do squat for CAFE. See, vehicles over 8,500 lbs. GVWR (gross vehicle weight) are exempted.

In response to my previous rant about why there isn't a Hemi Dakota, a DaimlerChrysler PR rep noted my allusion to CAFE standards and engine availability as a few of the factors as to why it hasn't happened yet. But without any light-duty diesels in Ram 1500s, Dakotas and Durangos, there is little to offset the relatively thirsty DC truck fleet fuel economy average. Light-duty diesels would do a lot to bring up their fleet fuel economy. There are multiple reasons why this hasn't happened, which is the subject of an entire other posting. But the good news is light truck diesels are coming. Probably starting with the 2008 model year. But rather than just giving oilheads something to get excited about, it will have a halo effect that will benefit all truck performance enthusiasts. You see, if they put a Dakota turbodiesel on sale that gets 20 city and 27 highway miles per gallon, that will allow the Dodge boys to possibly add a Hemi Dakota to the lineup that gets 15 city/20 highway. The same applies to Chevy and Ford. Would you like to see an LS2 Colorado or Canyon, or a 5.3 Vortec H3? Keep your fingers crossed for a turbodiesel as well.

There's a well-worn proverb stating "A rising tide lifts all ships." Along those lines, a rising CAFE average facilitated by more thrifty diesels will allow us leadfoots to enjoy our dirty little gas hogs a little easier.