Europe has embraced diesel-fueled vehicles and their efficient - if not always clean-burning - ways for decades. While Americans were running around celebrating the 50mpg Prius, Europe was yawning, pointing at its fleet of diesels that easily match or exceed the Prius’ petroleum parsimony. So while it’s not surprising that major manufacturers would look to diesel-powered models to help meet increasingly tough fuel consumption regulations, it is somewhat surprising that its America’s major manufacturers.

Why America has so completely avoided the diesel is something of a mystery - apparently the public doesn’t understand the benefits diesel has to offer. Aside from a few large pickups, Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee is the only diesel model available in the U.S. from a major American manufacturer. It seems the sheer lack of diesels may be part of the problem: although the technology has advanced far from the rattling, foul-smelling soot-spewing contraptions of thirty or forty years ago, America’s exposure to diesel engines since the 1970s has been sparse, at best.

Another part of the reason for the lack of diesel presence in America is California’s emissions standards, which are so strict that almost no diesels can pass. Seven other states have adopted the standards, and that means diesels, at their current emissions levels, would be prohibited from sale in the states most likely to want them - big, populous states with high fuel prices and lots of traffic.

Regardless of the reasons for the dearth of diesels, Detroit’s automakers are hoping that the economic benefit will be enough to sell the American public on diesel power. Saving money on fuel while driving the same size and class of car is an attractive selling point - one which can be made real with a switch to diesel, reports The Detroit News. The small premium in initial price for the more expensive diesel engine would pay for itself in less than four years for a motorist that averages 12,000mi per year. That kind of math is attractive, especially in comparison to the higher hybrid price premium, which can take ten or more years to recoup in fuel costs.