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  1. #21

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    Oh, I should add... I don't like sedans or trunks. My Jetta is a wagon version. That's what I meant by not liking sedans. The only thing a trunk is good for is hiding bodies, and I'm not a mobster. Otherwise, the trunk just takes up space and reduces the utility So I looked for a Golf or a wagon. Just because millions of Americans like trunks is not a good reason to have one- millions of Europeans are the exact opposite and preffer hatchbacks, with good reason.

    VW had some problems with reliability, mostly with their gas cars being built in Mexico. Problems like the cars burning "excesive" oil or having electrical problems. An electric window failing is in no way comparable to Ford's Focus having catastrophic suspension failure, it's pretty minor, especially if the car is under warranty. All in all, you are going to hear stories of somebody, somewhere having a problem with a car, no matter what model it is. If you are the type that doesn't ever want to have to worry about repairing a car or changing oil, then throwing away or trading in the car when you get bored with it, maybe the Honda or Toyota is a better choice, but as VW used to have in their pitch "Drivers Wanted". I'd much rather have a quirky but fun-to-drive car than a soleless econobox. Civics and Corollas all look the same to me and the suspension and handling are nice and suqishy for the masses (I guess it could be worse, they could have American suspensions like a Ford Taurus, that would really suck).

    And I'm sorry but I don't see how a basic Prius is anything but "stripped down". The sound system in the basic Prius is meager, and the car lacks side airbags, which I believe should not be an option, they should be standard, as they are relatively inexpensive (they only cost about 200 dollars for the carmaker). And the salesmen at the local dealers were mostly all pushy- they were trying to sell me cars I really didn't want, instead of ordering me the car I did want.

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  3. #22

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    "All in all, you are going to hear stories of somebody, somewhere having a problem with a car, no matter what model it is"

    You're right, no cars are problem free but let's look at some trends:

    (VW) "are especially risky buys. They have exhibited several years of poor overall reliability"

  4. #23

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    But did Consumer Reports bother to rank the problems by the cost to consumers to fix? VW might have more short-term reliability problems than other carmakers, but OTOH it could also very well have better long-term reliability. VW is one of the biggest sellers in Europe, and they also own the Audi, Skoda, and Seat brands. If they were so bad, people over there would not buy them at all. They do after all have Hondas and Toyotas in Europe (and they have a reputation for reliability there, although they are more expensive and harder to get parts for).

    The only "problem" I had so far was when I had a bad tank of fuel in slightly cool weather (about 55 degrees)- I had bought some "premium" fuel from a station that, in retrospect, didn't have alot of traffic and the fuel may have had some water (I am also a bit suspicious of the fuel filter- it looks like it was changed at 20,000 miles though, but I have been thinking of putting a new one in). The glowplug light and emisions light came on, and the car smoked at startup and stalled with any acceleration until the engine got warm. I had to warm up the engine a bit for a week, then I filled up with the usual brand of diesel (just cheap diesel), and the car has run fine for a month or so. It might be due to a slightly retarded timing- in which case I could take the car to a friend and have him hook it up to his computer and have a look at it, but its been running fine so far and getting 34-42 mpg in urban driving.

  5. #24

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    There is a bit of a disconnect in the US about what Volkswagens image is. Americans have this idea that Volkswagens are economical cars. That used to be true- years ago, but VW in recent years has been pushing for pretentions beyond simply being a "peoples car"; Volkswagen hase been trying to move up market, ever since they bought Czech Skoda and Spanish SEAT years ago, despite the fact that they also own Audi, which is already an upmarket brand. That means higher prices. They also spend more money on things like higher laser welding (body panels on new Volkswagens can be as little as 1mm tolerance) and research and developement, and they also register low share holder equity- they simply aren't as short-term profit driven. Labor problems in Germany also cause problems for them, forcing them to move some production to Mexico, Brazil or Poland (most US gasoline Jettas and Beetles are made in Mexico). Some German workers were refusing to work more than 28 hours per week for a while, and demanding 35 dollars per hour pay.

    And all the while European sales of Skoda and SEAT are up, because of platform compatabilities (VW uses platforms across brand lines to lower costs), people know that a Skoda is just a cheaper Volkswagen (just like the whole Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, or Chevy, Oldsmobile, with oldsmobile eventually being dropped because people caught on that an Oldsmobile is just an expensive Chevy). The Passat especially is squeezed between cars such as the Camry costing alot less, and true European luxury cars such as BMW or Mercedes, costing only a little more and having a better brand name.

    Honda may bring their diesel engine to market next year, or the year after, in the US in the Honda Civic, and Ford might make a diesel Focus next yea- Doge also has plans for a diesel Neon and PT Cruiser. So there will be alot more choices for consumers if they don't want a Volkswagen. But if VW gets its marketting, product image, pricing, and reliability together, they could be set for when diesel cars become popular in the US. I don't think they will ever occupy the space of "econobox" again, that is reserved for cars like the Scions and Focuses, etc. of the world, but they can occupy their own niche. The dealer I talked to said that VW's sales of their diesel cars in the US were up 25 percent over 2003- but in some areas people were more willing to buy them than others.

    That's all for long winded rants for now.

  6. #25

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    One factor on ageing diesels that smoke that is overlooked. The present generation diesels like the TDIs from VW or the common-rail diesels from Mercedes, use electronic controls to precisely meter fuel, and have extremely high injection pressures. The older diesels like older Volvos and VWs, had purely mechanical engine controls and lower injection pressures; they seem to be much more sensitive to poor maintenance and ageing. With the TDI the fuel metering is always right for the conditions.

    Here in Montreal there are tons of VW diesels on the road, arguably more here than in any N. American city. The older IDI (indirect-injection diesels) that I see indeed belch smoke. You rarely see TDIs that belch clouds of black smoke unless someone has modified the ECU for more power. I have a diesel Kubota garden tractor (18 hp 3-cyl) that makes way more smoke than either of our TDIs!

    Mike G.

  7. #26

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    Mike you make a good point.

    If today's diesel auto is truly revolutionary then that's a real major breakthrough, and it needs to be seen.

    If diesel car history continues as it always has, Montreal's new TDI's that don't smoke much today will be blowing toxic fumes tomorrow.

    Who knows, after 10 years perhaps I'll be proved wrong and buy a diesel.
    But diesel will have alot of catching up to do with hybrid, in both cleanliness and fuel efficiency.

  8. #27

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    The reason an old gas car spews smoke is because the catalytic converter is dying. This happens when the car gets old and starts burning oil. Then catalytic converter gets clogged with the oil and it stops working, and you get lots of emissions and burning oil in the tailpipe.

    A diesel is not going to have this happen, it will age more gracefully due to the long life of the engine, it usually uses a synthetic oil that doesn't burn as much, and more of the emission control are within the engine electronics- my 2003 Jetta TDI's cat only reduces the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons a little, NOx and particulates are controlled by injection timing. These engines are cleaner than any gasoline engine from the 80's, and they don't even have true catalytic converters like gas cars have had for years.

    If you see a diesel car smoking heavily, odds are the injection timing is retarded or it is simply running low grade fuel- there are alot of reasons but its usually not due to aging. Only the worst diesels are going to be spewing smoke, and you will probably find as many gas cars doing the same. A big truck will always have some smoke comming out of it becaues its working harder than the average car. You can't make a gas engine, hybrid or otherwise, work as hard as a big diesel truck and have it be low emissions.

    That's the one thing environmentalists miss. You can't have a store full of goodies and not have a truck out somewhere hauling the goods to the store that's also spewing out smoke that they won't like. So if you don't like diesel engines, avoid buying anything from a store and grow all your own food. It's the dirty underbelly of society that maybe some people don't want to acknowledge. It's just like trash collectors or janitors- not a pretty job necessarily but somebody has to do it.

  9. #28

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    I was stuck in traffic today on my way home from work. It was fairly mild out so I decided to roll down my driver's window and crack the sunroof to get some fresh air. I was stuck next to a late '80s vintage Honda Accord that was clearly not in the best shape. Judging by the fast and uneven idle, not in the best of tune either.

    The stink was overpowering and I had to shut the window until I got past him.

    Gas cars don't age that gracefully either and that's why many jurisdictions experimented with buy-back policies to get people out of their stinker jalopies.

    Of course it all comes down to maintenance and if you maintain the car according the mfg's schedule and specifications, a diesel, or gasser for that matter, should not pollute any more at 300,000 km than when new. That is provided ALL maintenance is done, worn out catalysts replaced, etc.

    With regards to diesel timing, of course this was a manual adjustment with the older diesels. With TDIs, there's nothing to advance/retard as it's all controlled through the ECU. And if the ECU dies, the car quits.

    Mike G.

  10. #29

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    How new are we talking for the diesel engine? My 2003 TDI does have a manual adjustment for the timing at idle- the ECU just adjusts the timing from there depending on what the engine is doing (so, I believe advancing the idle also advances everything else relatively). The 2004-2005 PD's are 100 percent electronic control.

  11. #30

    Diesel vs. Hybrid: A Point Missed

    We know that all cars can smoke when older but the human experience with diesel fumes is much different than gasoline or oil.

    Burning oil to most people stinks and is unpleasant.
    Diesel has the added problem of causing stinging, painful eyes and a choking throat.

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