Although diesel-powered light vehicles sales have grown in Europe to over 40 percent, penetration in North America is barely on the chart, according to research firm ABI.

Diesel engines aren't offered in North American light vehicles outside of large pickups, SUVs and a handful of Volkswagen models, the report noted. Despite two DaimlerChrysler model introductions and the need for automakers to increase their average fuel economy, the market penetration of diesel powered light vehicles will remain extremely small in North America into the next decade, the report said.

"American buyers won't be able to utilize most breakthrough diesel engine technologies developed by automakers in Europe," said analyst Dan Benjamin. "Upcoming US Tier 2 emissions standards are much stricter on diesels than Europe's EURO 4 standard. They will require US-targeted diesel vehicles to use diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology. Most DPFs don't function properly in the presence of sulfur, and US fuel won't be sulfur-free until 2006." The report, "Engine Management Systems: Emerging Markets for Advanced Exhaust, Fuel, and Intake Technologies," said that aside from sulfur content, American diesel fuel has a much lower cetane (a measure of the fuel's resistance to predetonation) count than European diesel fuel. This means American consumers will receive diesel engines that are detuned to account for low-quality fuel. These engines will deliver poor power and less fuel-efficiency than European counterparts. Although regulations are in place to reduce sulfur levels, no regulations exist to increase cetane in the US.