Pickups dominate US diesel market, light-duty offerings expected to grow

California, Texas and Florida lead the U.S. with the most registrations of fuel-efficient clean diesel and hybrid passenger vehicles according to an analysis and data by the Diesel Technology Forum, compiled by IHS Automotive (formerly R.L. Polk and Company).

“Consumers have an ever-growing number of choices for more fuel-efficient vehicles and this analysis shows that clean diesels are gaining in popularity all across the nation,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director. “Diesel car registrations are up 30 percent since 2010 while the overall market only increased 3.6 percent.”

Among passenger vehicle registrations, diesels currently account for over 7 million vehicles while hybrids account for 2.8 million vehicles in the U.S., according to the Polk data.

Diesel registrations accounted for 2.8 percent of all passenger vehicles – cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans. However, diesels accounted for 10.6 percent of all pickup truck registrations.

“Pick-up trucks continue to dominate the overall registration numbers for diesel, but we can see that changing in the coming years as new diesel engine options appear in an increasing number of cars, crossovers, SUVs and light-duty and compact pick-up trucks,” Schaeffer said. “The popularity of diesel powered pick-up trucks in Western states is a well-known, but five of the top 10 fastest growing states in 2013 for diesel pick-up trucks are Northeastern states – Vermont, Delaware, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

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In 2013, diesel registrations increased by 410,040 nationally and hybrids increased by 531,385. The analysis also showed that while overall diesel sales were up 30 percent in the 2010-2013 period, hybrid sales increased by 64.5 percent.

“We fully expected that hybrids would outpace diesel sales based on the number of choices available to consumers during this timeframe,” Schaeffer said.

In 2013, 23 diesel cars and SUV choices were available for consumers, but more than double that – 50 choices – for hybrids.

“Clean diesel technology is likely to continue to grow in the U.S. based on consumer acceptance of diesel as a clean and proven high-fuel economy choice. Diesels are about 30 percent more fuel efficient than gasoline vehicles and do not require compromises in vehicle performance, driving patterns or vehicle utility,” he said. “Clean diesels also deliver a competitive or superior total-cost-of-ownership compared to other fuel efficient technologies.

Indeed, DTF  expects to see the number of clean diesel choices grow in the next 18 months to encompass more vehicle classes and price ranges, with 16 announced new clean diesel options through 2017.

“Diesel cars and SUVs are emerging in the U.S. market,” Schaeffer said. “While diesels account for about 50 percent of all auto sales in Europe, diesels are a more modest three percent in the U.S. But clean diesel vehicles are poised to take off. As a result we could see the diesel market in the U.S. reach 10 percent by 2020 as Americans learn more about the proven real world fuel efficiency benefits and long term value of the new clean diesel technology.”