Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Smaller Displacement Engines

In the United States we hear a lot regarding the freedom of choice, as well as how the free market economy gives consumers more options than anywhere else, yet when looking at the automotive sector, I find myself asking "do we really have that many options available to us?"

If one takes a look at pretty much any other moderately sized market for cars such as Western Europe, Asia and South America it quickly becomes clear that our options are (in terms of variety) greatly limited. We get a smaller, less diverse grouping of manufacturers, a subset of said manufacturers products and even more so, a minute selection of motors for each of the aforementioned groups of vehicles.

Example 1: Choice of Manufacturers

First off we have to think about brands in general. Do we count Acura and Honda as two manufacturers? How about Audi and Volkswagen (amongst others)? For our criteria, Honda and Acura count as one manufacturer because most if not all of the cars sold as Acuras in the US carry the Honda badge elsewhere. Volkswagen and Audi would be counted separately because they are sold as such distincly around the world. Lets think about this then.
We have all of the Major Japanese and most fo the German companies, the Swedes, and a few of the English brands via both American and German owned parent companies. We could say that we have some of the Italian and French cars available in our country, but that's only if you count supercars/exotics. This brings up my first issue:
Where are the everyday car companies from those countries. Where are the cars from Opel (GM Germany), Vauxhall (GM UK), Holden, Ford (of Europe and Australia), Lancia, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Proton, Daihatsu (yes, Daihatsu), Smart?

Example 2: Diversity of Offerings from Available Manufacturers

Since there happens to be so vast a void of autos not currently available in the United States, I'm only going to pick out a few vehicles for sake of brevity. I'll take my selections from various world markets served by companies already selling their autos in the United States. Please note that I aware of some new arrivals coming to the US such as the Toyota Yaris (replacing the Echo), and this is a good thing, lets hope it is the beginning of long-term change.

Mind you there are some cars that come to the US as other brands, but usually at a premium, and/or without options offered on the original. Look at the new Ford Focus.. NOT the one in the US, but the one in Europe. We get the Mazda 3 and Volvo S40 which shares its platform, but not as what it originally was built as.. A Ford. We get the Chevrolet Optra/Lacetti/Excelle as a Suzuki Reno/Forenza, but in Canada it is still a Chevy. What is the deal with such badge engineering, it seems so pointless.

Example 3: Choice of Motors

This is really a no brainer, and I'm not going to list every possibility for the autos current sold in the United States, however as a simple example, I'll just use the current Ford Focus available in the United States and Suzuki Reno/Forenza (Chevrolet Lacetti).

In England you have a choice of the following motors available in your Focus:

1.4l - 80ps, 1.6l - 100ps, 1.6l VCT - 115ps, 2.0l - 145ps, 2.5l - 225ps, 1.6 Turbo Diesel - 109ps
1.8 Turbo Diesel - 115ps, 2.0 Turbo Diesel - 135ps, 2.0 Turbo Diesel - 136ps

In Europe you have the choice of the following motors availabe in your Lacetti/Reno/Forenza/Excelle, etc:

1.4l - 94ps, 1.6l - 109ps, 1.8l - 122ps and a special WTTC +R Edition with a 1.8l Supercharged Motor @ 170ps


Does anyone else see the disparity here. This is supposed to be a country full of freedom and choice, but apparently someone forgot to inform the auto makers.


Eric, much better, I agree with much of what you say. There are some minor points.

Many of the Euro brands that you point to were not driven from these shores, they withdrew from our market, because they could not afford to bring their offerings up to US Safety and Emission standards. Some of the others, like Daihatsu ( I loved the Rocky) were unable to compete. In Daihatsu's case, I think they entered the market too late, the less expensive Korean models were coming at the same time and they did not invest in the dealer network or have the models configured for the American market. The timing was wrong. I did not like the Charade, thought it looked wrong. And I had a Ford Festiva (Mazda 121) at the time, so it's not size.

Keep up the good work
It would seem that if the manufacturers had already done the engineering to fit a variety of engines into the models they offer here that, since that development money was already spent, they would offer as many choices as possible in order to recoup their costs.

Why don't they?

Simple; the US government has made the process of certifying engines for emissions so costly that most manufacturers can't afford to certify an engine that only a relatively small percentage of the population will buy, even if the engine meets our emission requirements.
You've both brought up some very legitimate points, and Joe, I agree with you about the Charade, it was a bit of an oddball.

I guess though that dealing with Emissions now, many of the European GM and Ford motors are ULEV or at least LEV spec these days, and throwing on some emmissions equipment shouldn't require a massive overhaul, even though there will most likely be a loss of a few ps/bhp/kw.

My issue is that Diesels (with maybe the exception of a few states) do not require emmissions testing, and as previously stated, one in every four petrol stations in the US offer Diesel.

I think we are indeed going to see a change, VW has been getting great press regarding their diesels, and Mercedes had taken out several full page ads in various new papers throughout the country when they introduced their new Diesel (with a massive 369 lb/ft of torque starting low down in the rev range and sub 7.0sec 0-62 times.). The fact that the Jeep LIberty can be had with a Diesel now is also showing hints of the winds of change.

Lets hope more are on their way.
Eric, I'd love to see Ford bring the 2.0 TDI over here and put it in the Focus, Fusion (and clones) and Escape. Also the new 2.7 V6 Diesel that's being brought out in Jaguar and Range Rovers should come here in those and others.

I've long wished for the 2.5L Diesel in the Ranger.

Chrysler will need to bring Deisels from Mercedes and VW into their line up as well.

GM had Diesels once, they will need to have them again.

Diesel may not be the only answer, but it's a part of an energy solution.

Speaking of Diesels, specfiically those of a larger displacement, it reminds me of all the great marques that are sold in the US yet are not offered with an oil-burner option in terms of powerplants.

Saab, BMW, Jaguar,Audi are just a few which offer Diesel motors elsewhere, yet not in the US. What is moreso bothersome is that they are not simple lower power models either. In some cases we're talking about some very high output numbers and rather large displacement.

One would figure that offering more options, especially those which could not only save the consumer money and add to their convenience (in terms of a long motoring cycle between petrol stations, would be a good thing. Mercedes pulled this off for ages so I would think it safe to say that those of similar ilk would have to know at least one or two people who owned one of those Diesel burners and hence wouldn't be averse to buying a similar powerplant themselves, especially if they had a wider variety of vehicles and marque from which to choose.

Thanks for sharing,


And regarding the 2.5 diesel for the Ranger, it only makes sense that every pickup in the US should offer at least one Diesel option. It's a pickup, it could benefit most from an oil burner engine configuration.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?