Study: Consumers Lack Confidence in Diesel

A new study by Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research showed that only six percent of new-car shoppers in the United States think that diesel can succeed in becoming a mainstream powertrain for the future. This number pales in comparison to the 40% of consumers who have confidence in hybrids, 20% for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and 17% in favor of flexible-fuel systems. The study, above all, proves that perception is king, as nearly half of the shoppers identify diesels as being dirty, noisy, and altogether unrefined. Consumers are also under the false impression that diesel fuel economy is worse than that of conventional gasoline engines.

More than half the vehicles in Europe run on diesel, but consumer interest for the fuel has lagged in the United States, according to the Kelly Blue Book study. On the other hand, the popularity of hybrid technology appears to be growing. The gap in public perception between the two drive systems has widened from 9 points to 17 points in the last month alone. The public sees hybrid technology as a means to a cleaner, greener future, while diesel comes across as backwards and outdated. In fact, today’s hybrids are much cleaner in terms of emissions, but so-called “clean diesel” is in the works.

Mercedes Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and Jeep will be making a strong push into the market in the coming years. Benz, in particular, is leading this charge with its Bluetec technology. “Many automakers are looking toward diesels as a very workable solution for the future,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “But the results of this study should give them pause and make them realize they need to do a better, more thorough job of winning over the American consumer.” A more ambitious campaign to educate consumers could put diesel in a new light, and allow eco-conscious car buyers to overcome negative perceptions of diesel.

In the meantime, hybrids continue to grow in popularity, with 61% of survey respondents saying they are interested in purchasing a gas-electric vehicle. In addition, shoppers considering a hybrid say they are willing to pay an average premium of $3,135 over a gas-powered version of the same vehicle—an increase from $2,645 just one month ago.

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  • ChevTex

    How about Hybrid-Diesel Powertrains. Its time for some serious lobbying and marketing action to happen to teach the ignorant American folk. That there is better technology out there then their precious Gasoline Engines.

    forget your Inefficient V8 Gasoline engines.

  • Putin

    I doubt you’re either a Chevy purchaser, or from Texas, Comrade. American consumers are far from ignorant. and America, as it always does, will lead the way in moving to the future by developing and purchasing the best available automotive powertrain technology that’s out there. Diesel isn’t it, although I’m glad it’s cleaning up its act. Europe ought to get on the hybrid technology bandwagon now, and await the finishing touches being placed on fuel-cell technology. Let the terrorists drink and drown in their oil. Diesel doesn’t get us out of that dependence cesspool that we find ourselves unfortunately in now.

  • HybridTexas

    Diesel engines are a large answer to getting “us out of that dependence cesspool” of foreign oil. You can run many, many oils and even used hamburger grease (lots of filtering required) in a diesel with only a few hundred dollars of retrofit. If you process the grease (you can buy kits for garage use ~$800) you can make B95 biodiesel and simply pump it in your tank like regular diesel. As someone has already make reference; the best combo would be a diesel-electric hybrid (running on biodiesel). By the way garage, made biodiesel costs the maker about $0.75/gallon assuming he gets the grease free.

  • Tony

    Since the problem is perception, the answer seems obvious. Branding. So-called “clean diesel” is different from “regular” diesel, so why not just call it something else? Here are some suggestions:

    “Texas Green Tea”

    Any others?

  • dieselaspirer

    Both texes are right. It explains alot knowing that the very purpose of the invention of diesel engines in the late 1800’s was to create something better and more efficient than the gasoline engine. Diesel engines are proven to be much more efficient, both because of the design of the engine and the diesel fuel it uses (diesel fuel…or even vegetable oil for that matter… are composed of much longer hydrocarbon molecules, which contain much more potential energy. Diesel engines (even the “dirty” diesel engines as opposed to “clean diesel”) burn much cleaner as well. The infamous black soot that is sometimes coughed out of the exaust is essentially pure carbon, which is completely harmless to the environment. Gas emissions are simply perceived to be cleaner because it is invisible to the naked eye. Gas emissions also emit more harmful gases to the ozone because it is less efficient in burning the fuel in the first place. Let’s just face it. Diesel beats Gas any day of the week.


    This perception is very ” americana” travelers knows that Europe and Others moves on diesel.

    If US moves only 30% of the new car to diesel the country can liberate the equivalent of the daily importation of oil from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia in 3 years….

  • Texas Diesel

    I live in Texas and I drive a diesel, got a problem w/ that? I didn’t think so!

    Clean diesel is a positive step in the right direction. It makes sense to pair a diesel engine w/ hybrid technology. This combination makes more sense when you use biodiesel. The ICE needs to go away.

  • front bumper

    With all of the alternative Diesel fuels on the horizon, why not a hybrid diesel? If we can get diesel from other sources, isn’t this the way to go? Where else can we get gasoline? I am for a Diesel plug-in.

  • Otus scops

    who matters about north-american consumers opinion??? their are the bigest polluters of the world and an low average general culture. why should we listten them??? like ADVILL and Texas Diesel said diesel is an excellent alternative. now, diesel engines are the most developed piece of technologie in automobile industry. I agree with front bumper.