With the price of fuel at an all time high and consumers continually looking for ways to save on fuel costs, talk of the MINI Diesel rears its head once again. As noted here before, the costs of development in bringing the diesel MINI to the US would not be recouped by the estimated number of diesel MINI sales in the US. The new twist is that the estimates of how many diesels would potentially sell were done looking at $3/gallon fuel. Now that fuel prices in the US are between$4 and $5/gallon and projected to be $7/gallon by 2010 (WSJ – 6/26/08), the question of a diesel in the US, apparently, needs to be readdressed. The downside to this is that diesel is currently selling for almost 18 percent more than regular unleaded.
The challenge is squarely on the shoulders of marketing gurus to educate the public on the benefits, ease of use and maintenance of a diesel MINI. Most of us see it as simple math – 47-60 MPG (diesel) is better than 35-40 MPG (unleaded) even with 18 percent more cost at fill up. The 50 percent greater efficiency of the diesel wins every time. This has been discussed ad infinitum and nothing has changed about the facts of the situation. What is changing is consumer demand and if enough consumers demand a diesel MINI to offset development costs. It remains a possibility.
Granted, it’s an uphill battle and still a bit of a pipe dream of being able to buy and drive a diesel MINI in the US. So where does that leave MINI in relation to fuel economy? MINI executives have been quoted saying that 37 MPG is already great especially in a “performance” car. It seems of late that the fuel economy of the MINI is not *the* main selling point but a pleasant benefit on a premium, performance car. With recent sales spikes it seems that owners are weighing MPG a little more in their purchasing decisions. There are many other cars on the market that get similar MPG and are less expensive but the MINI capitalizes on the premium, performance aspects allowing consumers to justify the extra expense of a MINI because of the increased efficiency.
So it appears to be a fine line that MINI walks in an attempt to maintain the premium, performance moniker while maintaining the highest efficiency possible but staying away from the label “economy car”. A delicate dance indeed.