Honda announced last week that it will delay the launch of its planned first diesel for the United States. The diesel-powered Acura TSX will be pushed back to 2010 from 2009, and some reports claim the company’s U.S. diesel program may be canceled completely.

The main reason for the delay is cost. Honda claims the expense of creating a diesel engine to meet California’s emissions standards—allowing it to be sold in all 50 states—has increased to more than $5,000 above a comparable gasoline-powered version.

The Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, said Honda is seeking to develop new catalytic converter technology that uses less platinum in order to keep prices down.

“We have to proceed cautiously in this environment.”

Honda spokesperson

In addition to cost factors, Honda has been unable to produce the diesel model with an automatic transmission that would pass emissions standards. Honda was not ready to move forward with marketing only a manual model in the American market.

The engine in question is a new version of Honda’s 4-cylinder 2.2-liter, i-DTEC engine. In Europe, where it’s sold in the Honda Accord—a model known as the Acura TSX in the US—the engine provides 188 horsepower, and more than 250 foot-pounds of torque.

Honda’s change of direction will send its engineers back to the diesel drawing board. In the meantime, Honda is said to already be working on a V-6 diesel that could be used in larger vehicles such as the Pilot SUV, Odyssey minivan, and Ridgeline small pickup.

Reuters recently reported that Honda also based its decision to delay on the high cost of diesel fuel. With diesel prices higher than gasoline and weakening overall vehicle demand, Honda officials argued it was not the right time to roll out a more expensive new model, even with spectacular fuel economy. The European model gets more than 60 miles to the gallon in EU driving tests.