As in the U.S., Japan isn't exactly known for their voracious consumption of diesel-powered vehicles. In point of fact, just a single derv-burning model, the Toyota Landcruiser Prado, remains on sale in the entire country.

The fuel's fortunes in Japan were significantly harmed by a number of tax code changes, as well as a damaging image campaign by then-governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. As a result of these legal changes and public perception issues, diesel sales in Japan tanked. But with the rise of cleaner diesel and more efficient engines, Japan (like the U.S.) is showing signs that it may be more open to the gasoline alternative.

The potential impact of this isn't lost on Europe's automakers, who have long struggled for a foothold in Japan (they currently control just 4-percent of the market). Given that fully half of Europe’s new cars have diesel motivation, the continent’s automakers possess the lion’s share of the world's most advanced diesel technology.

Keen to once again test Japan’s waters for diesel acceptance, Mercedes is set to market an oil-burning E-Class, and the automaker has already pledged additional models. Volkswagen and Peugeot are among the other automakers weighing near-term possibilities.

For its part, the German automobile industry association VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) has already announced that it will petition the Japanese to 'go diesel,' and a Tokyo-based research institute is already predicting that 11-percent of Japan's passenger cars will be thusly powered by 2015.

[Source: Reuters via The International Herald Tribune]