Blue Is the Color of My Tailpipe Exhaust

One of the problems that diesel vehicles have in the U.S. market is that they were historically not very pleasant to be around.

One of the problems that diesel vehicles have in the U.S. market is that they were historically not very pleasant to be around. While the driver might have been delighted with the low-end torque that put her away from the other cars when the traffic signal turned green, the drivers of the other cars were probably glad she was gone because (1) the diesel injector knocking sounded like a bionic woodpecker; (2) there was a fairly noxious odor being emitted from the vehicle; (3) the car zoomed away leaving a cloud of blue smoke in its wake.

This last item, the blue smoke, makes us wonder why Mercedes-Benz is launching an advertising campaign today around the word “BlueEFFICIENCY.” “BlueTEC” is the term it uses for its diesel-powered vehicles, which is predicated on the color of the urea that is used to reduce emissions.

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Wouldn’t this talk of “blue” lead non-diesel partisans, those who need to be convinced of the improved performance and fuel efficiency that can be realized through having a diesel under the hood, to think, “Damn, blue smoke!”? And that would encourage them to buy a diesel engine because. . .?

Although the slogan that GM had used when it was hyping ethanol like it was going to be The Fuel of the Future may have been somewhat silly—“Live Green. Go Yellow.”—but at least it sounded somewhat more environmental that the color of exhaust.

Another aspect of the Mercedes messaging requires extensive quotation from the press release describing it:

“The centerpiece of the campaign is an emotive TV spot that uses historical analogy to represent the innovative power of the brand with the three-pointed star. Using New York as a case in point, it shows how over 100 years ago the inventions of Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz revolutionized individual mobility and in so doing solved one of the most pressing emissions problems of the day: horse dung. Towns and cities were in danger of becoming buried under the mountains of droppings produced by the hundreds of thousands of our four-legged friends.”

Emotive, indeed.

(By the way: today’s clean diesels don’t travel with that smoke screen.)