For years we at MotoringFile wrote about the rumors of MINI USA’s desire to bring the incredibly frugal MINI diesel to the US market. We even confirmed the plans more than once. But in the end no diesel ever launched on these shore and now that the tide as turned to electrification, none ever will. So we felt it was finally time to get the whole story from MINI.

We recently sat down virtually with MINI USA’s Head of Product Patrick McKenna in a wide ranging interview you’ll be hearing more about soon. But the first thing we wanted to discuss was the back story of the diesel and why it never materialized in the US.

mini Diesel
BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-Zylinder Dieselmotor

MotoringFile: How close did the MINI USA actually get to releasing a diesel MINI? 

Pat McKenna: Offering a diesel mini? It was all I worked on for years. From the time I came to MINI it was a priority and I still have all my electronic files to prove it!

I specifically petitioned really hard for a diesel Countrymen and it¬†even had the green light for quite awhile long time. The challenge was always how do you package all of the required technology? And it’s¬†very expensive, but the packaging was the main issue.¬†

We were figuring out, w how to put in the urea tanks in a car not designed for them. So basically the car needed AdBlue which is necessary to meet US emission regulations. And to make it easy on customers we were going to make the service interracial identical to an oil change. So we had to insist on that tank getting big.

Now probably getting¬†into way too much detail, but we wanted to make sure that it¬†wasn’t inconvenient for owners to come into the dealer just to change AdBlue.

Another issue was the SCR, the¬†selective catalytic reduction¬†technology. Really expensive and I shouldn’t mention this, but I¬†will. I won’t name the other manufacturer, but I would go to dealer meetings and they would say, well, how come that other¬†company has diesels and it’s no problem for them. That other company used¬†what was called scrubber technology and I said I can’t¬†answer how they do it. I can just only tell you that for us to hit US emissions regulations we have to use all¬†this packaging.

mini diesel

MF: It’s worth nothing that that other company you won’t name is obviously VW and ironically they were cheating the system to get around having to put in the more expensive SCR tech.

PM: Then actually about a year before¬†that other company’s scandal happened it, we started to really see the¬†business case fall away so it wasn’t a result of that. But the business case¬†was basically looking at gas prices vs the cost. With gas prices coming down we couldn’t make it work.

What you’re selling is you pay a premium for the diesel be cause¬†you have the cost efficiencies. But if gas is really cheap and¬†diesel is expensive there is no business case.¬†

That other company’s diesel engines and their diesel sales were sizable at the time and so it was interesting.

We’ll be publishing ore of our wide-ranging interview with Pat over the next few weeks. But consider this the final chapter in the diesel saga for MINI USA. The ship has sales for the industry and I would even say for MINI owners in the US as well.