Some auto insiders are saying that 2014 is shaping up as the Year of the Diesel, with the number of diesel-fueled cars sold in the U.S. set to double over the next 12 months or so, and even more growth expected down the road.
“This year, the number of diesels will be doubled,” said Andreas Sambal, the North American director of marketing for German supplier Bosch’s diesel systems division, according to The Detroit Bureau. “By the end of the 2014 model-year there will be 40 diesels on the market and this will give consumers a lot more choice.”
By 2017, the number of diesel models sold in North America should be up to around 60, Bosch anticipates.
What’s fueling the expansion of diesel engines? Today’s clean diesels are not the loud, smelly, black-smoke-belching vehicles of old. What’s more, they offer drivers a rare, highly desirable combination of power and fuel efficiency, while costing only a bit more than a regular gas-powered vehicle. Edmunds.com senior analyst Bill Visnic explained to USA Today that diesel is “a magnificent option” for SUVs and trucks because of outstanding pulling power, while with smaller commuter cars, “Diesel affords the opportunity to offer hybrid-like fuel economy ratings without the investment in hybrid technology.”
The New York Times reported that diesel sales rose 26% in the U.S. last year, thanks to the fact that they can get 15% to 30% better mileage than their gas-powered counterparts and buyers don’t have to pay a gigantic premium on the purchase. “Diesel is far less expensive than plug-ins and E.V.’s, with better range and performance,” said Volkswagen of America’s Rainer Michel. “This technology is available today.”
While GM, Nissan, Mercedes, and other automakers are expanding their diesel options, Volkswagen appears to have a big headstart on the scene. In a recent press release wishing the diesel engine a happy 100th birthday, noted that more than 75% of diesel-powered passenger cars and SUVs sold in the U.S. are VWs. Thus far in 2013, VW has sold 56,480 TDI Clean Diesel cars in the U.S., representing nearly 25% of its total sales.
Overall, diesels account for less than 3% of all cars sold in the U.S. That ratio could shift up to 8% or even as high as 10% by 2018, according to various projections.
The increase in models available will certainly help the expected increase in total diesel sales. Audi, for instance, is making diesel an option in five of its 2014 models, up from just one in the past, according to USA Today. Nissan just announced that its 2015 Titan pickup truck will be powered by a V8-turbo diesel engine, which should bring competition to Dodge’s recently introduced 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pickup.
There are also several compelling mid-price diesel sedans on the market right now. The Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, for instance, was described as “a quiet and comfortable sedan that excels on the highway” by Detroit Free Press auto critic, who drove the car more than 600 miles on a single tank of gas and averaged as high as 45.5 mpg. The Volkswagen Passat TDI, meanwhile, is a smart purchase according to Edmunds.com’s math, which estimates that a driver would save $1,621 over the course of five years by going with the diesel Passat over the regular model, when initial price, projected fuel costs, and other expenses are tallied up. As a bonus, you’ll be able to skip many gas station stops over that five-year span, as the diesel-fueled Passat can go nearly 800 miles with a full tank.