US clean diesel auto sales increase 25.6 percent in 2012

By The Diesel Technology Forum | November 28, 2012

Clean diesel automobile sales in the U.S. have increased 25.6 percent in 2012, according to sales information compiled by HybridCars.Com and Baum and Associates. 

Most recently, U.S. sales of clean diesel autos increased 21.2 percent in October 2012 over October 2011, 44 percent in September, and 28.1 percent in August. 

In 2012, U.S. hybrid car sales have increased 67.8 percent and the overall U.S. automobile market increased 13.8 percent, according to the new sales information.

Consistent Double-Digit Increases Over Past Two Years

“The 44 percent increase in U.S. clean diesel sales in September was the largest gain of any month in 2012,” said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.  “And the overall 25.6 percent increase in 2012 is almost double the overall auto market increase of 13.8 percent.

“An important trend in U.S. clean diesel sales is the consistency of the monthly increases,” Schaeffer said. “Diesel sales have increased in 26 of the past 27 months with 23 of these months showing double-digit increases.  Impressively, there have been 20 percent or better increases in 20 of the past 27 months.”

Clean Diesels in “Early Stages of a Renaissance in America”

“While there has been some volatility in the U.S. and world auto markets, I think clean diesel cars and light duty trucks are in the early stages of a renaissance in America,” Schaeffer said. “Even though the combined total of diesel cars with light duty trucks sold in the U.S. is around three percent, there a several major reasons the outlook is extremely positive for dramatic sales increase. Today’s clean diesels are not the same as those Americans saw in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s diesels are fast, efficient, and clean and offer consumers long-term green value for their investments. With higher and fluctuating fuel prices, Americans are seeking more fuel efficient cars. In addition, the new federal fuel efficiency standards that will required a 54.5 mpg average by 2025 will also boost clean diesel auto sales, as diesel cars are 20 to 40 more fuel efficient than gasoline versions.”

Schaeffer said the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that compared to 2012 the price of diesel fuel will decline by about 3 percent in 2013 to $3.83/gallon.

“An important consideration for consumer’s comparison car shopping is the differential cost between diesel fuel and gasoline which has also declined,” Schaeffer said. “When comparing diesel to premium gasoline, the cost differential today is just 17 cents a gallon. With diesel fuel and gasoline prices tracking more closely, consumers choosing diesel will see a faster payback for investing in a clean diesel car, given the proven fuel efficiency and higher resale value—two of the key factors of the total cost of ownership.”

Pike Research Predicts Major Growth in U.S. Diesel Market

“There are currently 14 clean diesel autos and SUVs available in the U.S. and the number increases to 31 when you include light duty trucks and vans,” Schaeffer said. “However, the number of clean diesels available in the U.S. will almost double in the next 18 months which should result in a significant increase in domestic sales.”

A June 2012 Pike Research study projects that growth of diesel light duty vehicles will be especially strong in North America, with annual sales expected to increase from 282,000 vehicles in 2012 to 928,000 by 2018. Pike Research also predicts nearly 80 million clean diesel vehicles—light and medium duty—will be sold worldwide from 2012 to 2018, the study concludes.

New clean diesel introductions for the U.S. market that have been publicly announced and will be on display at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show include four new diesels from Audi and the Mazda’s U.S.-destined SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine.

Clean Diesel Autos Equal More Than 50 Percent of European Market

“Europe has already experienced this evolution and the U.S. is just beginning a renewal of diesel growth,” Schaeffer said.

“In Europe, more than half of all new cars are clean diesels. In some countries like Ireland and France, it’s 60 to 70 percent. Virtually every automaker—from Toyota to GM—has diesel models for sale around the world, in Europe, India, China and Australia,” Schaeffer said.

According the October 2012 International Council on Clean Transportation European Market report: “Diesel cars account for 55 percent of all new registrations, gasoline cars for 44 percent; all other technologies—hybrids, electrics, and natural gas and ethanol-fueled vehicles—combine to make up the remaining 1 percent. “

Internationally, Pike Research forecasts that sales of clean diesel vehicles will increase from 9.1 million in 2012 to 12.1 million annually by 2018, with clean diesels representing 12.4 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales by the end of that period.

New Clean Diesels Coming To the U.S. Market

In addition to the recent addition of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI diesel, 2012 Volkswagen Beetle TDI diesel and 2012 Porsche Cayenne diesel in the U.S. market, Schaeffer said a number of additional diesels will be available soon in the U.S. including:

-Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q5 TDI diesels will be available in 2013 joining the Q7 and A3 TDI to bring Audi's diesel offerings to a total of six. A TDI clean diesel A4 version is also expected in 2014 or early as 2013.

-BMW announced that the U.S. market will see a 2.0-liter four cylinder diesel and 3.0-liter inline six diesel engine in the next 12 months.

-Chrysler will introduce its new Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel in 2014, along with a new version of the discontinued Dakota pickup that will include a diesel.

-Ford will offer a new diesel Transit full-size commercial van in 2013.

-General Motors will offer a Cadillac ATS diesel and a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze in 2013.

-Mazda will become the only Asian car manufacturer to sell diesel cars in the U.S. when it introduces its SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine.

-The Mercedes S350 BlueTEC marks the return of the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz S-Class to the United States in 2012. Mercedes also plans to bring a diesel in the GLK and C-class for a total of eight diesel models by 2014.

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