Why the MINI Diesel Won’t Come to The US (Soon)

Recently fellow MF writer and diesel fan DB posted about the MINI Cooper D in relation to the US market. Specifically he asked the question; would you (in the US) buy one? Over 200 comments is impressive surely, but I wanted to shed a little more light on the unfortunate Diesel reality we have in the US. To start with I’m a huge fan of diesels and would welcome the Cooper D. However there are some very specific and real reasons why we will not see this car without some major legislative change in several key states. The problem with diesel is tailpipe emissions, particularly smog causing NOx. Unfortunately, the MINI Cooper D does not comply with emissions regulations for all 50 states. So a very large portion of US MINI dealers could not sell it even if it were offered. This makes the federalization costs prohibitive for MINI USA to offer it in the US market.

Yes MINI could look at technology like Mercedes Bluetec (what they use to control these missions) but a solution like that would both cost an enormous amount per car and eat away at the already low storage space in the MINI.

We’ll be delving into this topic more in the coming months with further details on both what to expect in the future and why the future (in the US) isn’t the Cooper D

  • A friend of mine has a turbo diesel VW Beetle. If VW can do it, why not MINI?

  • Nigel

    Dear MINIUSA Management:

    You have royally dropped the ball. Your bean counters are driving your business into the ground.

    Dissapointed.

    -Nigel

  • Steve See

    And in the meantime unless you are a mini loyalist people will buy Diesel Golfs, Jettas and Passats this fall.

  • Iain

    Yes, it is true that current diesel engines are not 50-state legal. But that is the point of Merc/VW/Audi BLUETEC – clean up the tail pipe emissions with a shot of urea. I understand the system is expensive and complex but the benefits are tangible. And they are in production – and coming to the US.

    If BMW can discuss bringing a diesel X5 and 5-series to the US, why not a Mini? A diesel Clubman with oodles of torque and great mileage would be a winner…

  • Matt

    driving the business into the ground? where do you get off? MINI has engineered a brilliant car and marketed it to perfection in the US. sales of the R56 are up and R53’s continue to command high prices in the used market. not offering what is a niche vehicle in a niche market is not a wise business move for MINI. i applaud them for their restraint.

  • Nigel

    Matt, I respectfully disagree. High gas prices more than justify the expected demand a diesel MINI will have in this market.

    -Nigel

  • He gets off because it’s a “Comment” section.. or it was last I looked.

  • Ron

    This has been BMW’s attitude towards diesel in the US for years. So it’s not surprising. I’m more annoyed with the regulations that would prevent the sale of BMW’s diesel models than I am with BMW or MINI. With the incredibly increased fuel economy of something like the MINI diesel, doesn’t that outweigh any extra emissions it might create when you compare it to a regular car that’ll have to burn more fuel to go the same distance? (can anyone can prove or disprove this little theory of mine?)

    Another thought – even at $3 a gallon, gas is still relatively cheap here in the states compared to other countries. And most people buying MINIs (and BMWs) are not greatly concerned with fuel economy, they want sportiness and performance, so as other people have pointed out – it really is not in BMW’s interest to spend the money on bringing diesel to the states right now (except for maybe a more popular seller like the 5 or X5 series).

  • Matt

    the cost of federalization is very high, thanks big 3. the diesel as it is won’t be legal in california or on the east coast due to tail-pipe emissions, huge car markets in the US. california itself is the 6th largest economy in the world and defines what vehicles the US receives. BLUETEC is very expensive and would be cost prohibitive to introduce in a MINI unless you’re willing to pay JCW S prices for one. 5’s, X5’s, big merc’s have the requisite realestate and pricing margin to make such a move possible. and frankly there aren’t that many MINI’s on the road, at least as compared to 5-series or X5/3’s, models across which costs can be diversified. MINI has no such differentiation.

  • Nigel

    BMW had a great opportunity to pull the rug from under the Japanese. Honda has just discontinued the Accord Hybrid for the 2008 model year, effectively ceding the market to Toyota.

    MINI could have been a strong player in the alternative fuel market with the Diesel version of the car. Their accountants apprently have the last word and at such have decided against offering it in the US market.

    That decision will come back to hunt them. Filling up every 250-320 miles @ $5 per gallon is not fun even with a 14 gallon tank.

    And…

    There is no need to apologize for eveything BMW does or doesn’t do.

    -Nigel

  • Matt

    BMW is a business that must answer to it’s shareholders and it’s board. if a move isn’t profitable, or doesn’t advance the brand, the company is right not to pursue it. or would you prefer your MINI’s & BMW’s to come to you from China ala Rover/MG?

    as for being an apologist, in this context, perhaps. however on less critical, read: not business fundamental, things like JCW Recaro’s, power-folding mirror’s, or any other choice bit we’ve been denied in the past, i’ll be right next to you shouting from the hood of my MINI.

  • DB

    With the incredibly increased fuel economy of something like the MINI diesel, doesn’t that outweigh any extra emissions it might create when you compare it to a regular car that’ll have to burn more fuel to go the same distance? (can anyone can prove or disprove this little theory of mine?)

    You would think that to be the case. But here in SoCal, the region is essentially a giant basin so a large portion of tailpipe emissions get trapped. So much in fact that the state’s air quality control board is trying to put some heavy restrictions not just on diesel automobiles (which now have to have the same tailpipe emissions as a gasoline powered car) but on big rigs, trains and large ships (both container and cruise).

    As much as I would love to have a diesel, I’m really discouraged every time I see the ever deepening layer of brown in the air. You would also think with the amount of traction the article I posted had the diesel would sell like gangbusters, but I’m with Gabe in thinking that it would be not enough to justify the extra cost involved to make the MINI D 50 states legal.

  • dr

    exactly how many vw diesels sell each year? I dont know where to get the numbers but diesels are small amount of cars sold

    I would buy a diesel……but I wont pay extra for it and I certainly dont want “expensive AND complex” urea injection

    Your anger is misdirected at MINI it should be directed at state legislatures who not only are keeping this specific product off market but also drive up the cost of gas by regulating specific blends of fuel for each state….OH yeah, and make FAR MORE in TAXES than the oil company makes in profit per gallon!!!

    Lastly, if you can afford the depreciation of buying a brand new car….you can afford tha $3/gal gas.

    I would like diesel….but I can do the math, it doesnt pay off for anyone. when it does, I will be intrested

  • sdb
  • Alex T.

    As much as it sucks to have California dictating what the rest of the country can and cannot do, I hope they do go after the bigger problems of big rigs and interstate/international shipping. Surely these guys are putting out more toxic chemicals than if every MINI in the US were converted to diesel. I also wish we had smog testing in Indiana; I hate driving behind people that are putting out enough crap to make you feel sick.

  • James

    I understand the costs of making diesel work here in the U.S. can be prohibitive. But VW is bringing Bluetec Jettas and Golfs here. Both are cheaper and downmarket compared to a Mini. Yet no concerns of diesel jacking the price out of contention. So if the business model works there, why can’t the typically pricier Mini accomodate it?

  • Steve S

    I believe VW will have several TDI models out for 08. While in the past they haven’t had a high demand I think that will change. If you look at used diesel Jettas they will command 3-5k more than a gas equivelent. That is in part due to increased awareness but also due to the fact that you can not get a new Jetta as a Diesel.

    I’ll be watching VW sales for their 08 models to see what the take rate on diesel version are. I’m betting it will be high if teh market it right.

  • zman

    Matt is right, thank California for ridiculous standards. they have constant forest fires that contribute more to air pollution than car tail pipes.

    i don’t blame bmw, its epa and mostly california.

    you can have the merc bluetec engine. i’d stick with the gas turbo !

  • Dustin in Ohio

    The phrase/excuse that the United States wont buy a diesel is horseshit. It is self fulfilling – don’t sell them and it is amazing – no one buys them.

    Conventional wisdom never is. Conventional Wisdom said hybrids would never be in demand. Hark – they actually are. Its amazing if you sell a product, people might actually buy it! I guess I will have to look to Honda (confirmed Diesel coming to US in 2009) and VW. Sad.

    No its beyond sad. Its frustrating. I WANT either the Volvo v50 d5 or the MINI D. I can have neither for the sole reasons that the manufactures refuse to sell them here in the US (modifying for t2bin5 at this point is a known commodity/cost – so that is not an excuse). The ONLY reason is that BMW/MINI and Volvo refuse to sell them.

    Design, Style etc… only goes so far – I really want the v50 or the MINI. But, Honda makes a great car and VW makes a decent car (my last one had electrical issues). Now that Honda has confirmed diesel for 2009 (hidden in the news that it was pulling the 2008 Accord Hybrid), I will likely wait for it. Sorry MINI sorry Volvo.

    Also – for those ‘mericans who think diesels are smelly stinky smoky trucks we drive behind – too bad. Take a look at the next VW you are behind in traffic. Look for the TDI badge. Because thats the only way you would know it is a Diesel.

    ” Volkswagen, whose diesel sales reached a record 22 percent of the carmaker’s overall U.S. purchases in April, is counting on diesel sales to help return the U.S. operations to profit.” (http://www.hvwc.org/html/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=521&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0 )

  • robble
    Nigel Filling up every 250-320 miles @ $5 per gallon is not fun even with a 14 gallon tank.

    get a R56. A tank on my S model can esaily last over 400 miles.

  • Aren’t US emissions based on percentage of bad stuff and Europe’s are on total bad stuff? Maybe that made sense in 1974 but today it’s crazy when a 50 MPG car needs to meet the same % standard as one that only gets 18 MPG. There should be an act that anything over say 40 MPG can meet laws of 5 years ago, or something similar.

  • Gilbert’s

    The Governor doesn’t want diesel in CA…..

  • Chuck

    Get a R53. A tank on my S model can easily last over 400 miles if you keep your foot out of it!

  • Brian

    Chuck, An MCS can get 400 miles? Mine will get 300 max, and only if the car is in a good mood. Where do you live? What gas do you use? What model year?

  • Jon

    The funny part is one of the State that make the Mini D impossible is California. The funny part is the Governor reduced his 5 Hummer fleet down to 3, drive around Southern California and you will see some of the highest population of large SUV’s that spew out a sizable portion of that toxic cloud that hangs over the land. Seems odd that the Nox from the Mini D is to great for a state that has the population of immense vehicles that populate there.

    I would give up the rear seat in a Mini (since I have never used mine)for them to have all the room they need modify the car to bring it over.

  • DB

    Get a R53. A tank on my S model can easily last over 400 miles if you keep your foot out of it!

    Wow! You get that many miles out of your MCS? I barely get that out of my R50 with exhaust, intake and drivin’-like-a-old-woman driving style. With the AC off.

    Oh yea, here in CA, the SUVs still have a different standard and area allowed a little bit more crap to come out of the pipe if I’m not mistaken.

    Maddening I know.

  • banjoez

    U.S. diesel thinking (well at least California, NY and a couple others) seems fundamentally flawed when considering a car like this. The old R53 got an air pollution score of just 2 according to the fueleconomy.gov statistics, pretty poor for a little gas engine yet it was acceptable. Can a new diesel MINI be that much worse? Commercial diesel trucks and jets can run rampant in all these smog prone areas but that is ok. Here is a car that puts out less greenhouse gases than the petrol versions (about the same as a Toyota Prius) and gets about triple the mileage of the average US car. The Prius with it’s environmentally unfriendly batteries and less MPG gets all the great press and the MINI D won’t even be considered here. Add in the potential of biodiesel (I know, not engineered for it but other diesels manage to run fine with a few mods) makes the overall air pollution score go way down………well you get the picture……very frustrating.

    CO2 Emissions: 2007 Mini Cooper 129g/km

    2007 Mini Cooper S 149g/km 2007 Mini Cooper D 104g/km (same as Toyota Prius)

  • DB

    The problem isn’t CO2, it’s the NOX.

    Since 1970, EPA has tracked emissions of the six principal air pollutants – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds. Emissions of all of these pollutants have decreased significantly except for NOx, which has increased approximately 10 percent over this period.

    You can read more here

  • EricR

    Bummer on the no diesel deal. The new crop isn’t like the old Caddies from the ’70s. Can’t say I like driving behind old Mercedes, though.

    I’ve gotten 400 miles once in my MCS – in Nevada. Never on CA gas. Makes sense, right – to pollute less I have to burn more gas. ??!?

  • MillieTheMini

    There’s an article on the edmunds.com website that was posted last month, about GTL (gas-to-liquid) technology – specifically, the creation of diesel fuel from natural gas.

    What’s so important about GTL diesel is that according to the article, GTL diesel is virtually free of sulfur and aromatic compounds, so a diesel car running on GTL reduces particulate emissions by 25-40 percent.

    http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=120912

    Here’s one part in that article that really caught my attention:

    “For example, it’s estimated that a 30 percent GTL blend could help diesel engines pass even California’s stringent emissions regulations.”

    Perhaps this is what we need in order for diesel powered vehicles to really make a significant foothold in North America.

  • Chuck

    Brian, I have a modded 05 S, 15%, Borla street, giac and a Webb motorsport intake. When I drive long trips, I set the computer to the current MPG function and try to stay between 30/40 MPG. I did the same with my GTI and also got great mileage. I only do this on LONG trips. The last trip in the Mini was from White River Junction Vermont to Newark delaware, about 395 miles, with a couple pit stops. My trip was 406 miles and I still had gas in the tank. It’s not the first time i’ve done that either.

  • I just got 386 miles on a tank in my ’05 MCSc and the OBC still said I had 30 to go. But I was too scared to push it to the magic 400. But I drive about 1400 miles a month and so even that is not good enough for me financially-wise.

  • David R

    Now it looks like Honda will beat BMW/MINI to market with a 50 state Diesel Accord making 52 mpg. It has a new cat design that meets California standards.

    http://www.autoblog.com/category/green/

  • Greg W

    Down-under in New Zealand we pay around $1.00 a litre for diesel and $1.55 a litre for 91 petrol. The reason diesel is cheaper is because of lower taxes. Diesel is traditionally only used for trucks and farm vehicles. However, diesel cars must pay road user charges and we have to buy a mileage licence – say 1 year/30,000 kms – to legally use diesel cars on the road, just like truckers. They measure individual truck vehicles with a hubometer. So when you take into account the difference between diesel and petrol prices and then add the road user charges, it has very little economic sense to own a diesel car unless you travel huge distances. At gas stations, if you spill diesel on your hands or shoes/clothes it smells bad – and the smell of diesel ommissions give me a headache. However, I believe that some diesel cars have less ommissions than petrol cars. Then there is a problem with the grade of diesel, and the requirement of particle filters. Stick to petrol or use methanol like Indy cars. The only other alternative is LPG gas which a lot of Taxis use in NZ – but you have a big tank in your boot area.

  • MY 04 MINI in Utah gets 33-36 mpg around town + hwy. 65mph hwy w/ cruise control gets me 38-42 mpg. 55mph(just had to try it, don’t regularly go that slow) w/ cruise control gets me 48-52 mpg. Always using premium grade fuel.Trip from SLC Ut to Eagle Co w/cruise at 65, 75 and just haul at 85-95 still got 37 mpg for the trip. I run 175/65 15 continentals at 35 psi f+r. If I got only 400 miles on a tank I’d visit the dealership. Maybe the California fuel is delivering poor effiency for you. I am a motorcycle enthusiest and truck driver, Don’t know if my driving habits help. I do accelerate quickly, but do get off the accelerator way early for red lights etc. MINI D would be efficient and long lasting, but a toad 0-60 I think it’s apx 12 seconds which is like eternity when getting on the fwy.

  • Max

    Too expensive? Boo hiss! They charge $100 for clear turn signal lense. $200 if you want a different color headliner. C’mon.

  • slag1911

    BMW, don’t let the flat sales of the R56 sway you… Give us a diesel in the R53 body style! Man would that be sweet or what? They would sell everyone they made…

  • David R

    Ultra-low sulfur Diesel is now available in the US (at the moment cheaper than regular gasoline in California), and biodiesel is also available in some areas.

    We now have Honda, VW, Nissan, probably Subaru, and others all working on reasonably priced 50-state legal Diesel cars to be introduced in the next few years. The NOX issue is being solved by these companies. It is now matter of will for MINI, not California regulations. Will MINI be a leader or follower?

    more info here: http://mydrive.roadfly.com/blog/ExJxZ3/

  • bavarian racing green

    …back to nigel, Honda has not conceded the market to toyota for hybrids, they opted out for a better option…

    …ask anyone with a prius or other toyota hybrid what they actually gain in mileage if they drive like a normal person…

    …unless you drive like a nearsighted babyboomer the extra mileage for hybrids is exaggerated…

    …ever the intelligent company, honda went for the more simple, intelligent option — high efficiency, clean burning diesel…

    …an option that will consistently deliver improved mileage regardless of driving style…

    …anyone know what it would cost to buy a Cooper D then have it boated over the pond to illinois???

    …i’m sure smog is a non-issue in the corn fields around here…

  • Jim W.

    I echo the sentiments, and I’ve said it many times before:

    If the VW Jetta, Golf, and Beetle can meet standards, why not the MINI? Something is rotten in Denmark (er, Oxford).

  • Shamus

    I honestly think that BMW is simply taking a very conservative “wait-and-see” attitude to future diesel sales. Let the other brands go out on a limb here in America, see what their sales do, then decide whether to bring the “D” over. It’s a very German approach to business strategy.

    I’m sure they have the technical expertise to meet EPA regs, they just don’t want to be the ones trying to convince America that diesels are for them.

    Give it a year or two…if Mercedes, VW and Honda can make it work, you’ll the see the MINI D here in no time 😉

  • Ron Arnold

    BMW is most certainly considering bringing a diesel-equipped MINI over to the US. Whether or not they do that in the near term (call it 3 – 5 years) will be decided by the managers, engineers, finance people, marketers (via demand) and yes, customers.

    Other manufacturers are gearing up for the next big thing in the US – high tech diesels – and will be bringing competitive products to market in that timeframe. Time, competition and the economy are on our side as far as BMW bringing in a MINI D. You just wait. Or buy one of the many competitive, cool, small, high mileage, sporty and fun diesels when they appear. And they will appear.

  • Who cares about diesel? Why doesn’t such an amazing company like BMW step up to the plate and design a hydro car just like Honda is going to be launching next year? It really sucks to see how many Mini and non mini enthusiasts are in such denial. We can all help and lets keep pushing companies to make sweet rides that don’t depend on dirty energy sources. I for one won’t be buying another Mini until something is worth my “sacrifice” not to make a bigger carbon footprint.

  • David S.

    If I’m not mistaken, BMW already has a few Hydrogen 7-series on the road right now, in a similar (if more secretive) program to what Honda will be doing with the FCV.

    I personally don’t care that the D isn’t 50-states legal. VW has been selling its TDI for years now without bothering to comply, and they’ve simply cornered the market in the “other” 43 states. The TDI badge on the back of a used Golf or Jetta can add thousands of dollars to its residual.

    There are also companies which sell completely refurbished Mercedes and Volvo diesels of 1980s vintage in the $17-20k range.

  • heyduard

    Don’t hold your breathe for hydrogen. Sure it works. but, from articles I have read, the infrastructure for delivery of hydrogen will take at least a decade to build.

    The infrastructure for diesel already exist. Honda is doing it smart. Two pronged attack. Improved diesel tech now, hydrogen later. Sure, BMW is following the same plan, but at least Honda is delivering States side.

    I would be all over a diesel Ridgeline. I can still have the Mini. 😀

  • MINI Cooper

    Even if they were to bring it over to the US market. The allocation would be so small you would have to wait a year to get them and dealers would mark them up at least 3K and that would take you a couple of years to recoupe that money that you would save on gas.

    Look at the bright side nothing even close compares with the MINI and if gas mileage is that important to you go buy a Prius and hug a tree and see how much driving that car will be.

    Let’s Motor

  • bavarian racing green

    …you could always lower you’re ‘carbon footprint’ by not breathing so heavy…

    …anyway, hydrogen = not practical, reliable, or affordable in forseeable future…

    …cleaner diesel technology = immediate, practical, flexible (bio-options), and long lasting and durable…

    …until ideas like honda’s self-hydrocarbon-cracking home-based hydrogen integrated personal filling station comes to feasable fruition, diesel is the way to go…

    …then again i have an 16 year old honda crx that still gets 45 mpg…

    …now i’m breathing too heavy!!! 🙂

  • Felicia Hudson

    Fine, I’ll be buying the VW tiguan $28,000-31,000 and is a clean diesel. Can’t waith until 2008.

  • Put a Honda mill in the critter – or some balls on the US management.

  • Pingback: MotoringFile » Archive » MINI + Alternative Fuels in the US()

  • Pingback: MotoringFile » Archive » MINI Cooper Diesel in the US, redux()

  • hardy

    I am so tired of hearing these BS reasons why diesel cant come to US. The Mini D Nox emissions are no more than your average modern diesel compact. Look at the VCA database in the UK for emissions info for any car you want: http://www.vcacarfueldata.org.uk. For Mini D to be 50 state legal is on par with making a cleanTDI vw or bluetec mercedes, or yes BMW. They know how and could do it now. As a current Mini owner I am already extremely frustrated at the lack of ability to buy a diesel option that offers MUCH better mileage. And then not to offer the brake regen or stop start AT ALL here indefinitely is ludicrous. even if you dont want diesel the same effing car in europe will get you 43 US mpg combined with this, 60 US combined with diesel.

    sigh, do i have to buy a volkswagen, BMW???

  • Dieseldust

    Reading all the fuss about emissions from the diesel engine, what about another solution? I know space may be an issue, but what about a Diesel Hybrid. That way a smaller power plant could be used, the torque off the line for the electrics wouldn’t compromise the fun factor, sure passing may be challenged, but I’m sure that some gear ratio mods and adjustments to a turbo could satisfy that issue.

    So, would a smaller displacement diesel meet the tailpipe emissions issue. What size engine would achieve that goal.

    (a side bar note; there was a hybrid electric car built in Galt, Ontario, Canada in the early 1900’s that had a gas engine that turned at a constant 800 rpm. This engine drove the electrics and it received a whopping 70 mpg. Of course it only had 10 hp and didn’t go very fast. However, it’s interesting to note that if this technology had survived and received the technical advances that other cars have gotten, where would we be today?)