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News Mercedes says goodbye to diesel in North America

17:19  14 december  2017
17:19  14 december  2017 Source:   driving.ca

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While it was hardly surprising to watch Volkswagen flee the scene of its diesel crimes, a just-released listing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) is offering another interesting morsel: it appears Mercedes-Benz is also throwing in the towel on their diesel entries in North America.

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Vehicle manufacturers must submit product information to the appropriate governing regulatory body – in the U.S., it’s the NHTSA, in Canada, it’s Transport Canada – ahead of those vehicles hitting showrooms. They must provide documentation that all vehicles are in compliance with safety and emissions rulings. They must also note any changes from previous model years, and include supporting data.

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The current submission to NHTSA from Mercedes-Benz is devoid of any of their diesel models, which signals they won’t be selling those editions of their vehicles in that country.

Why?

Mercedes-Benz ducked most of the fallout from the Volkswagen debacle, though the stain was deep enough to tarnish anyone still dealing in diesel. But the answer might be more basic than that: American buyers simply can’t get the proper fuel to use in their BlueTec vehicles.

Most fuel stations in the marketplace sport a blend of diesel fuel and biodiesel, the ‘bio’ being derived from a plant base or recycled oil. Mercedes-Benz requires owners to use diesel with less than 5 per cent biodiesel, called B5. The problem is that many outlets throughout the U.S. offer diesel with up to 20 per cent biodiesel – B20. This higher level wreaks havoc on the engine, leading to expensive issues not covered by warranties because people have used the wrong fuel.

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“Continuous use of B20 fuel can lead to fuel filter clogging and injector deposits, and can cause the engine oil level to rise due to unburned fuel washing into the oil pan. A clogged fuel filter as well as injector deposits can cause engine performance degradation while increased engine oil levels due to dilution by unburned fuel can cause engine mechanical damage.” That’s right from a Mercedes pamphlet.

“My guess is that if Mercedes is dropping its diesels in the U.S., it’s because of the fuel problem,” says John Raymond, a consultant with the Automobile Protection Association (APA). “The manufacturer’s requirements are at odds with what many states are implementing. They want to make use of products and technology they see the most benefit in – and there are a lot of corn fields across large parts of that country. Raising the ethanol content – which comes from that corn – is good for them, but not good for customers who are driving vehicles they can’t reliably fuel and still maintain their warranty.”

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Consistent use of the higher B20 biodiesel blend gums up the works. Online forums are full of exasperated owners whose vehicles are underperforming, experiencing brutally high repair bills, or finding out they’ve voided warranties. Some states made changes at the pumps after affected motorists purchased their vehicles, but most would agree it’s become a case of challenging the government versus just not buying that car. Raymond thinks the cessation of diesel by Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. is in response to buyers not needing the headache. B5 is readily available across Canada, though Mercedes-Benz in Canada pulled diesels from their 2017 lineup when they couldn’t get certification under newly-devised standards, a fallout of the Volkswagen mess.

A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz Canada says that there is no immediate update on diesel options for Canada. But Silvina Pica, a brand specialist with Mercedes-Benz Durham, says her dealership just doesn’t offer a diesel option. “We’ve been told due to restrictions from the EPA, North America will not be receiving any diesel models,” she says. “They’ve been wiped from the system, and all the configuration programs.”

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Manufacturers pack a lot of information into their owner’s manuals. Using the wrong grade fuel – or the wrong fuel, period – will void your warranty. The changing formula for diesel fuel and the changing emissions standards appear to be forming the tipping point for diesel’s demise.

Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. is indeed ditching their diesels, and Canada appears to be as well. We’ve long been the runty little brother when it comes to what vehicles we get to choose from, after the U.S. picks. We’re rarely significant enough to warrant receiving any editions of vehicles that our southern neighbours didn’t order first; the difference in that equation, however, has always been the diesels. We have a substantially higher take rate on them, in every brand, than our American counterparts ever have. Could the latest American decision be permanently reflected in Canadian showrooms?

It certainly is at Mercedes-Benz. Whether the other manufacturers with diesels in their lineup, including GMC, Jaguar, Land Rover, Chevrolet, BMW and Nissan, follow suit remains to be seen.

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