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Diesel Passenger Vehicles in US Grew 56% in Five Years


The number of light and medium-duty diesel passenger vehicles registered in the US grew 56% from 2000 through 2004, from 301,741 to 468,990. That represents an increase in marketshare of 1.14 percentage points, from 2.25% in 2000 to 3.37% in 2004, according to research done by Polk Automotive for the Diesel Technology Forum.

With 92.5% of the registrations in 2004, medium-duty trucks represent the largest component of the diesel passenger vehicle market in the US. This category includes vehicles such as the Silverado, Sierra, Ram and F-series. With a limited market selection, light-duty diesel vehicles (such as the Mercedes-Benz and VW)  represented only 7.2% (33,541).

By comparison, more than 84,100 hybrids sold in the US in 2004.

When given a choice between diesel and gasoline versions of the same model, 47% of medium-duty buyers opted for diesel. Only 12% of light-duty buyers made the same choice. 

Diesel is clearly gaining momentum, and with its inherent advantage in lower fuel consumption proving  increasingly attractive as buyers begin to factor in the price of fuel. But the light-duty, passenger car segment of the market still has a long way to go in terms of buyer education and demand.



Another factor holding back the light-duty (passenger car) segment is that California & 4(?) other states have barred new diesels from sales there. You can buy a new model year diesel car only if it is "used" with greater than 7500 miles on it. This certainly has depressed the market & influenced VW & others to be far less agressive than they could be selling such high mpg vehicles.
This situation should change with 2006 and the implementation of fed law requiring Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel fuel. This will reduce pollution down to below the Calif requirements, and open the market back up. Of course, using biodiesel would immediately reduce pollution, but the states don't understand that argument yet!


I visited Europe with my wife recently for a lengthy business stay. We rented various passenger vehicles while we were there. It is irrelevant which badges we drove, they were turbo diesels not available in the US. They all got in excess of 55 mpg, and one we drove in France got almost 67 mpg. These cars were small, but well-appointed and comfortable, agile and a joy to drive. When we got home, I immediately started looking for diesel vehicles like those we drove--and what did I learn: There aren't any, but there are "tech" sites which hold themselves as neutral, which give you the scoop on diesel, but in fact are designed to present diesel vehicles as if there is very little mpg difference between diesel and gas powered models. These sites are nothing more than US auto mgf sites meant to discourage diesel vehicle use. It is not easy to understand. However, if even 30% of the passenger vehicles in the US were using turbo diesels like those I drove in Europe, there would be no need for mid-East oil in the fuel pipelines. That's how much fuel savings there would be. I don't care who agrees or disagrees with this, but it is clear to me that there is a concerted effort in this country to keep vehicle mpg figures low in order to keep imports of mid-East sourced oil high. Just a few mouse clicks and it was obvious that the US would keep altering "diesel" requirements every time "diesel" became a serious option in US markets. I am disgusted.

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