If chatter on the Internet is any indication of market trends, then clean diesel technology will become a strong contender in the world of green motoring. In a report entitled, “Shaping the Future of Automotive Engine Technology,” BrandIntel, a market research firm, analyzed the volume and sentiment of online discussions about eco-friendly transportation. The firm concluded that U.S. consumers are starting to see diesel as a viable alternative to hybrid and gas-powered vehicles.

“Diesel has been under the radar. Now we are seeing new diesel technology, including clean diesel, the fact that consumers can use biodiesel, and new players coming into the space, all of it is creating a bit of buzz and excitement,” said Vince Bucciachio, BrandIntel auto analyst.

Automakers leading the diesel charge—Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Honda, and BMW—should be encouraged by the online buzz about diesel engines, which might finally be ditching its stigma as dirty, loud and unrefined. According to the study, Mercedes Benz has made the largest leaps forward in terms of Internet buzz. This is largely based on Benz’s Bluetec clean diesel technology, which is viewed as a market leader. The company will be making its biggest push with Bluetec in the upcoming year when it expands distribution of its E320 Bluetec sedan, and rolls out three new diesel-powered SUVs, all of which will be available in 50 states.

The BrandIntel study found several statistics that indicate diesel’s emergence into the public consciousness, including:

  • Diesel discussion share increased by 75 percent this year compared with 2006.
  • Mercedes Benz’ discussion share increased relative to diesel engine market leader Volkswagen. Benz chat went up 106 percent, while Volkswagen dropped by 46 percent.
  • While chatter about gasoline engines decreased by 10 percent from 2006 to 2007, talk about diesel grew from 8 percent to 14 percent.

Modern diesel power offers advantages–such as environmental friendliness, better fuel efficiency, and higher low-end torque—when compared with gasoline engines. Diesel fuel costs can be higher than gasoline, and emissions generally remain higher than hybrid cars. Nonetheless, the study from BrandIntel shows that public acceptance of diesel power is growing in the United States. “We will see substantial gains [in Internet chatter] for both diesel and hybrid," said Alan Dean, vice president/business innovation at BrandIntel. "But the one that will look more surprising to some people is diesel."

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