Road Ahead

Diesel, Gasoline Reach Price Parity in Flyover Country

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Add behind-the-wheel kicks to the virtual elimination of the price difference between gasoline and diesel, at least in the Midwest, and the Chevrolet Cruze is primed to extend the Detroit Three’s diesel push beyond a few heavy-duty pickup truck models.

I stand amended.

Back in February, amid much buzz over diesel-engine technology taking hold in the U.S. market, I expressed some mild doubts about its prospects here.

Good, often great, fuel economy? Check. Clean? Exhaust is as clean as a gasoline engine’s. Fun to drive? Double-check, thanks in no small part to turbocharging that makes for juicy torque and smart acceleration.

The rub was the cost of fuel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Admin.'s "Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update," the nationwide average price of regular gasoline on Feb. 4 was $3.54 a gallon. The nationwide average for diesel was $4.02. The difference of 48 cents a gallon meant you’d have to pony up an extra $7.68 for a 16-gallon diesel fill-up.

That was then. By June 10, diesel prices had crept down to a nationwide average of $3.85 a gallon while gasoline crept up to $3.66. But according to USEIA figures, it’s a wash in the 15-state Midwest region, where diesel averaged $3.87 a gallon on June 10 and gasoline averaged $3.88.

I won’t speculate on which direction prices of either may take. But diesel’s price equity with gasoline in the nation’s heartland arrives at a good time for General Motors, which launched its turbocharged 4-cyl. Chevrolet Cruze diesel this month.

Basing at an affordable $26,595, this Cruze delivers EPA-estimated peak highway fuel economy of 42 mpg (5.6L /100 km) and a segment-leading 148 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm.

Two of my WardsAuto colleagues report fuel economy of 42 mpg and more than 50 mpg (4.7 L/100 km) in rural and highway driving, although those numbers come from the Cruze’s on-board instant readouts.

But that’s not all, as Associate Editor James Amend enthuses: “Mash the throttle and it charges like a Cape buffalo. Feather the accelerator and it replies with smooth bits of torque to swing out of curves or slip past slower traffic on the highway. Remarkable integration with the Aisin 6-speed transmission.”

Mercedes, Volkswagen/Audi and BMW already are entrenched in the U.S. market with diesels across a broad price range. Add behind-the-wheel kicks to the virtual elimination of the fuel-price difference (as of this writing, anyway), and the Cruze is primed to extend the Detroit Three’s diesel push beyond a few heavy-duty pickup truck models.

A diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee is due out later this year, followed next year by a light-duty Ram pickup with the same engine.  

I may be carping about a deal-breaking price disparity later. But for now, diesel – at least in the Midwest – doesn’t beg the catchphrase, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Fact is, you can.

 

 

 

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Dec 18, 2013

So now there isn't much difference between diesel and gasoline? Today you might pay a low price for a storage tank full of diesel, but tomorrow you might just pay more than a gasoline car owner. How ridiculous has the situation gotten? I guess they should just focus on improving electric and hybrid cars so that everyone can finally save money and save the earth too.

on Feb 3, 2014

Well that’s not the case these days is it? The latest is that they are going in different directions with diesel prices going up and gas prices going down which means that consumers are never going to have faith that diesel engine cars will offer steady prices. The risks that they could invest in diesel and then the prices rise sharply are just too great and the unpredictability of it all will result in consumers sticking to what they know.

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