NEW YORK – Sales of diesel-powered light vehicles in the U.S. rose 13.5% year-over-year in 2014 and have increased every year since 2010 as an industry official predicts, “Consumers are warming to diesels.”
Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, predicts that share will reach 7%, or roughly 1 million vehicles, by 2020. “Diesel sales have spurted 47.6% over the last four years,” he tells the International Motor Press Assn.
Schaeffer expects diesel sales to rise again this year, aided largely by Volkswagen’s marketing efforts and the introduction of diesel versions of the Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Colorado and Nissan Titan pickups.
Some 2.9 million light vehicles powered by clean-diesel engines were introduced between 2005 and 2013 in the U.S., Schaeffer says. Growth has occurred despite plunging gasoline prices over the past year that have curtailed sales of high-efficiency vehicles such as diesels and hybrids, and gasoline’s price advantage over diesel, currently about $0.38 a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
But diesel vehicles’ fuel economy can be between 20% and 35% higher than gasoline, the department says.
Texas led the nation with 893,553 diesel vehicle registrations through 2014, followed by California with 650,252. Those two states represent about one-fifth of the 7.4 million diesels registered nationwide.
California’s 23.5% growth in diesel registrations from 2013 to 2014 was the nation’s highest, followed by Massachusetts at 21%. Eight other states saw increases of at least 15%.
Diesel power in the U.S. has a long way to go to catch Europe, where about half of all new-vehicle registrations are for diesel-powered cars and trucks. In some European countries, diesels account for up to 80% of overall light vehicle sales.