With Hybrids in Short Supply, Clean Diesel Cars Gain Traction
Hybrid cars usually outsell clean diesel vehicles by about three times. But the disruption in supply of hybrids and related components (due to Japan’s earthquake in March) has apparently pushed efficient diesels higher on the shopping list of buyers wanting more miles per gallon.
“American’s have never had so many vehicle fuel and technology choices, ranging from a growing number of hybrid gasoline vehicles to new plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, in addition to clean diesel and conventional gasoline vehicles,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “In this competitive technology field, it is encouraging that more Americans are choosing clean diesel cars than ever before.”
Today’s clean diesel cars have fewer emissions, and provide a much smoother ride, than the previous generation of diesel vehicles—and yet Americans have continued to hold stereotypical views of diesels as loud and smelly. That is finally changing. In May, more than 9,000 clean diesel cars were sold in the U.S.—a 34 percent jump compared to a year ago. By contrast, the lack of hybrid availability pushed down sales by 42 percent compared to 2010, down to a little more than 16,000 vehicles.
Nonetheless, clean diesels remain less than 1 percent of new cars sales. But according to Peter Marks, president and CEO for Bosch’s North and South American operations, as many as 10 percent of new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. might have diesel engines by 2015. Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “We know that clean diesel is one ingredient in the recipe for our long-term energy security.” LaHood made the comment at the opening of a new Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Rising federal fuel economy standards, which go to around 60 mpg by 2025, will require greater efficiency across the board—and will encourage automakers to make and sell more diesel vehicles.
Volkswagen’s clean diesel cars—including the Jetta TDI and Golf TDI—helped VW in May post its best month of sales in the United States in more than seven years. For the month, Volkswagen’s overall U.S. sales grew by 27.9 percent on a year-over-year basis.
The 2011 Jetta is available with three different engines, including gas-powered 2.0-liter, four-cylinder and 2.5-liter, five-cylinder models that earn 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The most economical choice is the 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel engine that gets 30 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway.