And Now Mercedes…

Looks like Mercedes is in Uncle’s gunsights now.

With VW shot full of holes and sinking fast over the diesel emissions “cheating” scandal, the heavy artillery has been retrained, azimuth and altitude calculated, the breech closed. The next salvo’s ready to fire.

At the three pointed star.

At its line of BlueTec diesel engines.

Which are alleged to be “cheating” Uncle’s emissions tests, the same accusation that’s rocked VW and which may, ultimately, end VW (via potential liabilities/fines in excess of $50 billion).

Automotive News reported the other day that “independent” testing discovered “evidence of a defeat device” that causes Mercedes’ diesel engines to emit larger-than-allowable levels (but not necessarily quantities; this is a critical point which I’ll get into shortly) of nitrogen oxides at low temperatures.

Uncle has “requested information” from DaimlerBenz. It is never good news when Uncle “requests information.”

Mercedes — for the present — denies having “cheated” Uncle. Which is like denying you successfully outmaneuvered street mugger.

My hope — if it turns out that Benz did “cheat” Uncle — is that it does not do what VW did and don the hair shirt. It hasn’t done much for VW; it won’t do much more for Mercedes. When fired upon, the right response is… fire back.

A rather odd (perhaps not proof-read) statement was issued by Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, also late last week: “A component that inadmissibly reduces emissions is not used in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.”

Italics added.

It’s still probably ok to sell a vehicle that eructs less rather than more of whatever it is Uncle objects to.

But perhaps it was a deliberate malaprop?

If the allegations are true, at least whoever wrote or signed that statement won’t be in peril of a perjury rap.

Either way, Benz is now the target as VW’s list continues to worsen.

Or rather, diesel engines — generally — appear to be the target.

Uncle seems determined to purge them from the marketplace. One wonders… why?

First VW — the one car company that was selling affordable diesels — diesels that (interestingly) undercut the economic rationale for hybrid cars and to an even greater extent electric cars.


Now, Mercedes.

Who’s next?


There seems to be a jihad under way against the compression-ignition engine. To either eliminate them entirely via a de facto illegalization or render them so expensive (and lackluster performing) that people will either decline to buy them or buy something else.

Like a Tesla, perhaps?

And that may be the key to understanding what’s really happening.

Uncle does not like diesels because they provide a solution to the problems that are used to justify Uncle himself.

For one, Uncle kvetches about too much oil being used. Well, diesels use less oil. If half the cars on the road had diesel engines under their hoods (as in Europe) Uncle would have much less to kvetch about with regard to how much oil the populace uses.

That is to say, much less in the way of plausible justification for onerous regulations such as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) fatwa. It’s set to uptick to 50-plus MPG on average by model year 2020 — less than four years distant. Not a single gas-engined car makes the cut.

But diesel-powered cars could.


That likely makes Uncle itchy.

Uncle is uncomfortable when supposed problems no longer are. It makes it harder to justify the budget allotment.

Which brings us back to levels vs. quantities.

Emissions are measured either in terms of parts per million (PPM) or grams per mile (GPM). The distinction is important because a car that produces lower emissions as measured GPM-wise may emit more on a PPM basis — and seem (or be portrayed as being) “dirtier.”

Put another way, the car with a lower PPM may emit more total emissions if measured GPM-wise.

An engine that uses less fuel will be more likely to have a lower GPM reading than an otherwise similar engine that uses more fuel.

Diesel-powered engines use much less fuel overall than otherwise-equivalent (in size/power) gas-burning engines. The difference is about 20-30 percent, in favor of the diesel.

Now, consider that even if the allegations leveled at VW and lately Mercedes are absolutely true, the PPM differences we are talking about amount to less than 1 percent of the exhaust stream.

The agit-prop dramatically screeches “up to 40 times” higher!

Well, even if it is “up to” 40 times higher, it’s “up to” 40 times higher than a fraction of a percent.

Uncle obsesses about such things. The media rarely ever explain such things.

It’s criminal malpractice on the part of journalists.

Diesels — especially affordable ones, like VW was selling — also make hybrids and electric cars (especially) seem silly.

Why — other than green preening — would any person merely interested in an extremely efficient automobile even consider a $35,000 Tesla (with a best-case range of maybe 200 miles) when they could buy a $22k Jetta TDI… or even a $35,000 diesel Mercedes (with a range of 700 miles).

The eyes begin to open.

Uncle’s object appears to be to make very expensive cars like the Tesla the New Normal — all in the name of being Green.

Which in a way, is absolutely true.

Only the green at issue is of a very different kind.


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