Volume automakers have put the brakes on nine diesel-powered vehicles that had been scheduled for 2010.
Honda, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota have postponed diesel programs because of spiraling costs and other problems.
Financial problems halted the programs at some companies. Others, like Toyota Motor Corp., are looking elsewhere for fuel economy. "We are banking heavily on hybrids," said Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister.
Only German automakers — Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW — have followed through with plans to launch U.S. diesels on time. Most German diesels are in premium vehicles similar to vehicles built in large numbers for Europe and other markets. That volume reduces development and production costs per vehicle.
A diesel engine typically delivers fuel economy 20 percent to 30 percent better than that of a gasoline engine. But a diesel can add between $3,000 to $8,000 (about 2,135 euros to 5,700 euros) to a vehicle's price.
Costly components include the turbocharger, the high-pressure fuel-injection system and the complex emissions system, which is filled with precious metals. That cost seems to be a barrier for the mass-market brands.
Still, the new German diesels are selling well. The price of diesel fuel may be a factor. It has dropped from its high last summer of $4.85 per gallon — considerably more than gasoline — to $2.63 last week, a few pennies less than a gallon of regular gasoline.