Consumers Prefer Diesels Over Hybrids.

Ed Birch edwbirch@comcast.net
Sun, 25 May 2003 18:19:42 -0400


Motor - April 30, 2003

A new survey by J.D. Power and Associates says U.S. consumers are expressing
more interest in buying diesel vehicles than gas-electric hybrid models.
However, automakers say that despite the fuel economy gains that diesels
offer, most diesel enthusiasts will be disappointed with the vehicles that
companies are forced to produce under new cleanair regulations proposed for
diesel engines.

Nearly 4500 consumers responded to the J.D. Power survey. The automotive
research firm said 27% would opt for a diesel-if it were as clean-running
and performed comparably to a gasoline engine-compared to just 22%
preferring gas-- electric hybrids. The preference for diesels, which get
between 30% and 60% better fuel economy than gasoline engines, jumped to 56%
if gas prices would go to $2.50 per gallon, while 38% said they would
purchase a hybrid.

The results were surprising considering the positive publicity given to
gas-electric hybrids over the last two years and the fact that even
Volkswagen, the U.S. leader in diesel car sales, doesn't use the word
"diesel" in its marketing, but rather "TDI."

"It comes down to power, and hybrids still do not have the highway passing
speed that gasoline or diesel engines have, and towing was a factor as
well," said Walter McManus, executive director of global forecasting at J.D.
Power. While the results of the J.D. Power survey show diesel's image has
come a long way despite relatively small vehicle sales, they also show that
the image of hybrids has a long way to go. "For a lot of people, hybrids
still seem wimpy," said McManus.

Volkswagen currently offers the most diesel cars in the U.S.-Golf, Jetta and
New Beetle. VW will offer a diesel-equipped Passat in the fall, and plans to
offer a diesel version of its Touareg SUV next year.

General Motors spokesperson Chris Preuss said, "Despite the growing interest
in diesels, GM (and other automakers) will be fortunate to be able to sell
its current lines of diesel-powered large pickup trucks after 2007 in the
numbers it wants because of clean-air rules that the automaker, and the auto
industry, are having difficulty meeting."

The big hurdle for automakers is developing and employing catalysts and
filters to reduce the output of smog-causing oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from
1.25 grams per mile to .07 gram by 2009. "There's a lot of work being done
to achieve that, but no one is there yet," said Preuss. Ford has shelved
plans to use V6 diesel engines in its pickup trucks and SUVs until the
technology is available.

DaimlerChrysler plans to sell 5000 Liberty models next year that will be
powered by a 2.8L common-rail turbodiesel engine. It's expected that the
diesel-powered Liberty will yield up to a 30% improvement in fuel economy
vs. a comparable gasoline-powered model. DaimlerChrysler currently offers
diesel engines in its Dodge Ram heavy-duty trucks. Approximately 75% of all
Dodge Ram 2500/3500s sold in North America are powered by diesel engines.
Mercedes is bringing a 3.2L common-rail turbodiesel E-- Class to the U.S. in
2004.

(Imagine that!! Someone should tell the EPA).

Ed Birch, Pennsylvania
93-100S