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May 15, 2020   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Diesel Pickup Sales Help Drivers Save Fuel and Reduce Emissions for Everyone

As more Americans look to pickup trucks and SUVs, diesel options can deliver the efficiency and performance consumers want.

As more lockdowns are lifted just as the weather gets warmer, many of us are itching to get out of the house and even take a vacation. Chances are these trips won’t be by plane but by car. Today, consumers looking to match driving style with fuel efficiency have the most choices ever offered and diesel is one of many. Diesel’s combination of power and efficiency means superior fuel savings without sacrificing key attributes like performance. 

If you can’t wait to get out of the house and enjoy the warmer weather you certainly are not alone. But as shelter in place orders are gradually lifted across the country, more of us will be able to enjoy the great outdoors and even take a vacation and these trips will probably be done in cars and increasingly more often, in large pickup trucks and SUVs. As the COVID pandemic has left its toll on the American economy, auto dealers have responded with incentive offers including no interest financing for up to seven years. Offers like this may explain why auto sales are proving a little more resilient than other retail sectors. As the economy recovers this might be a great time to buy a new vehicle if you are in the market.

What do Americans buy more of than any other vehicle? Pickup trucks and SUVs. As of the end of April, more pickups and light trucks were sold than sedans for the first time in decades. Despite the overall reduction in vehicle sales due to the Coronavirus, large pickups including Ford’s F-series line, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram, made up nearly 21 percent of all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S last month according to J.D. Power

When it comes to fuel efficient choices, car buyers have more choices than ever. Mild hybrids, 48 volt hybrids, battery electrics, plug-in electrics and even fuel cells are now available. But these choices are frequently limited to sedans and smaller vehicles even though manufacturers are working on expanding future options. 

SUV and pickup truck owners also have fuel efficient choices, although they may not generate headlines. Improvements to gasoline engines including direct injection and multiport variable valve timing deliver savings along with advanced diesel choices are all available. Of these advanced internal combustion engine choices, diesel is still the one fuel efficient choice and one that does not sacrifice power and performance.

Q1 Vehicle Sales Dashboard

A full size pickup owner choosing the more efficient diesel option can save 200 gallons of fuel per year and squeeze out an additional 125 miles on a single tank relative to a comparable gasoline option. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, diesel pickups have an average greater real world fuel economy and a lower real world C02 footprint than the most efficient comparably equipped gasoline options. If all full-size pickups sold were diesel, we could save 500 million gallons of fuel per year that equates to 15 percent of all cars and trucks on the road being an EV, according to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum.

While there is a lot of economic uncertainty today, car dealers are responding with once-in-a-lifetime financing offers. As more Americans look to pickup trucks and SUVs, diesel options can deliver the efficiency and performance consumers want. More diesel pickup truck sales can help save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions even delivering benefits on par with expanding EV sedan sales.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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