According to the latest Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research study, only six percent of new-car shoppers in the US think that diesel is most likely to succeed in becoming a mainstream vehicle powertrain type, compared to 40% identifying hybrids, 20% selecting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and 17% citing flexible-fuel systems.
When asked about their perceptions of diesel engines, nearly half of the in-market new-vehicle shoppers say that diesels are dirty and noisy. In addition, the latest study shows that shoppers increasingly believe that diesel-powered vehicles get poorer fuel mileage than conventional gasoline engines, and fewer consumers are seeing diesels as fuel-efficient.
Interest in diesels is steadily declining among in-market new-vehicle shoppers, while interest in hybrids continues to grow. The gap between shoppers’ interest in diesels versus hybrids has greatly widened particularly in the last month, with the nine-point gap in December 2007 jumping to a 17-point gap in January 2008.
Many automakers are looking toward diesels as a very workable solution for the future, especially in light of the recently passed energy bill, 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. Clearly many Americans still think of the dirty diesels of the past and are not aware of the benefits of new clean-diesel technology.—Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book
While diesel consideration and favorability are declining in the eyes of in-market new-vehicle shoppers, hybrids continue to gain favor. In addition to hybrids being seen as the most viable mainstream powertrain choice, interest in hybrids has steadily increased in recent months, with 61% of shoppers saying they are interested in hybrids in the latest study.
When asked about the premium they are willing to pay for a gas/electric hybrid over a traditional gasoline-powered version of the same vehicle, this month shoppers are willing to pay an average premium of $3,135, up from an average premium of $2,645 a month ago in December 2007.
When asked about which hybrid vehicles they would consider for their next purchase or lease in the latest study, in-market new-vehicle shoppers cite the Honda Civic as most popular with 35%. The next most-popular models are the Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander, each garnering 23%. Toward the bottom of the consideration list is the vehicle that arguably put hybrids on the mainstream map—the Toyota Prius—which only garnered 12% of the consideration.
Prius sales accounted for more than 52% of hybrids sold in the US in 2007.
The latest Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research study was conducted on Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com among in-market new-vehicle shoppers during January 2008. Kbb.com is rated the No. 1 automotive information site by Nielsen//NetRatings and is ranked as the most visited auto site by J.D. Power and Associates eight years in a row. Nearly one in every three American car buyers performs their research on kbb.com.