Why the U.S. Can’t Have the Greenest Car in the World

Arguably, the greenest car in the world is Ford’s new 64 mpg (74 mpg highway and 51 mpg city) Fiesta ECOnetic Diesel. It gets better gas mileage than the Prius, and unlike the Prius, it doesn’t use difficult-to-recycle batteries.

The Obvious Business Reasons Ford Won’t Sell the Fiesta ECOnetic in the U.S.

So why isn’t the car being sold in the U.S.? According to Ford America President Mark Fields, “there are business reasons why we can’t sell it in the U.S.” One of these business reason is that it runs on diesel. According to Business Week, the thinking is that Americans prefer hybrids to diesel because we perceive diesel as dirty and old–not high tech like hybrids.

The second business reason Ford isn’t bringing the Fiesta ECOnetic to the U.S. is because they make it in the U.K. and importing the car would cause them to loose money if they wanted to be cost competitive with the Prius.

The Really Obvious Reason Ford Won’t Sell the Fiesta Fiesta ECOnetic in the U.S.

A couple years ago, Ford could have planned to build this car in America, which would have reduced the costs over building it in the U.K. But Detroit only understands that America loves trucks and SUVs. American car companies still haven’t figured out that people are willing to buy fuel-efficient and reliable cars. Americans, especially of my generation, don’t trust Detroit to build cars that are reliable. When we think reliability, we think of Toyota, Lexus, Honda, and Acura–not GM or Ford.

The Non-Obvious Business Reasons Ford Won’t Sell the Fiesta ECOnetic in the U.S.

The real reasons Ford isn’t bringing the Fiesta ECOnetic to the U.S. is because of CAFE standards and the U.S.’s auto emissions standards. The auto workers’ unions support CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards because they promote protectionism for American-made cars. As United Auto Workers economist Dan Luria’s stated, “CAFE acts like a domestic content law.” CAFE standards require U.S. automakers to meet the fleet fuel efficiency standards using only cars built in the U.S. It might seem like it would really help Ford to meet the CAFE standards by importing a super-efficient car, but because the Fiesta ECOnetic would have to be imported, it wouldn’t help Ford.

The second non-obvious reason Ford isn’t importing the Fiesta ECOnetic is because it doesn’t meet U.S. auto emission regulations. The U.S. has very stingent standards on the emissions of particulate matter (a fancy name for dust). Our standards are more stringent than Europe’s standards and as a result it is very difficult for diesels to meet the standard for all 50-states (for example, the Subaru Forrester diesel won’t meet the emission standards for all 50 states).

It’s a sad irony that the U.S.’s clean air standards help keep possibly the greenest car in the world out of the U.S.