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US light-duty diesel sales climb in 2018 to 500,000 units; 3% of sales

Sales of diesel light-duty vehicles (Class 1-3) in the US in 2018 reached their highest annual level, coming in at more than 500,000 units—just over 3% of total vehicle sales—according to figures by Baum & Associates provided by the Diesel Technology Forum.

The light-duty diesel segment is led by three models: the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ford F-150. The F-150 diesel is new for 2018; sales represented approximately 5% of total F-150 sales.


Source: Diesel Technology Forum.

There is a large drop-off after the three category leaders, with GM and the European-based manufacturers completing the category, Baum said. Sales of these light-duty diesels represent approximately 0.8% of total sales—up modestly from 2017.

The diesel share of new US vehicle sales in 2018 exceeded that of hybrid vehicles, which came in at almost 2% of total sales, as well as the sales of plug-in electric vehicles (plug-in hybrids and full-battery-electric vehicles combined), which also came in at around 2% of total sales.


Source: Diesel Technology Forum.

Class 2 and 3 pickups have and continue to be the largest light-duty users of diesel engines, with an overall growth rate of 12.5% over 2017. Over a three-year period (not annualized), this category has seen a very strong growth rate of 35%, with the strongest growth in 2017 and 2018.

Diesel sales in smaller vehicles showed modest growth in 2018, after a drop in both 2016 and 2017. Sales from these vehicles in 2018 increased by 9% as compared to 2017.

More American truck buyers are choosing bigger vehicles, and that is where diesel shines. 2019 will prove an important year for the use of diesel engines. More products are expected to hit showroom floors along with revamped products that have proven popular with car buyers this year.

—Alan Baum, a Michigan-based automotive industry analyst

More than 40 diesel models are available today in the United States from 10 manufacturers and brands. Offerings range from light-duty and heavy-duty pickup trucks to crossovers and sedans. New diesel options continue to be announced or introduced in the most popular vehicle models, including:

  • Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup
  • Ram (Cummins) 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups
  • Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty pickup
  • Mazda 3 with a SKYACTIV-D engine

A typical full-size diesel pickup truck owner will save about 200 gallons of fuel each year while achieving an additional driving range of 125 miles and boosting power and performance, compared to a comparable gasoline model, according to an analysis commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum.



So, diesel still rules among the alternatives.


I suspect that a hybrid with a turbo-Miller cycle engine might be able to out-class diesels at a lower price point.  Nothing beats the torque and power/weight of modern electric motors.

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