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February 08, 2022   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Diesel Pickup Trucks, Vans and SUVs, Finding Their Niche

Among alternative fueled vehicle sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, 36% were hybrid, 28% diesel, 27% battery electric and 9% were plug in hybrids

Automakers are at the forefront of many trends; autonomous systems, connectivity, delivering new and innovative mobility options and of course leading the charge for decarbonization by providing consumers with a growing number of efficient vehicle choices, and these include diesel.

It’s a niche market for diesel: According to auto analyst Alan Baum of Baum and Associates, in the fourth quarter of 2021 automakers sold 3,325,248 vehicles. About 546,000 of those were fueled by something other than gasoline, and 152,000 of those were diesels. Diesel choices amount to 4.6% of total vehicle sales in that quarter. On a year over year basis, that’s 1.2% of the total market in 2021.

Diesels hold nearly a third of the alternative fueled market: Among alternative fueled vehicle sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, 36% were hybrid, 28% diesel, 27% battery electric and 9% were plug in hybrids.  

Finding a sweet spot with larger vehicles: A little less than a decade ago there was growing interest for light-duty diesel vehicles in the US, with nearly 60 choices coming into the market including compact and full-size passenger vehicles, econo-boxes, small station wagons and the list goes on. Fast forward to today and there are about 30 diesel choices for the 2022 auto buyer centered squarely in the trucks and SUV space, and mostly larger vehicles.

Our dashboard has the details: Quarterly analysis of the alternative fueled vehicle market can be found here, along with Alan Baum’s analysis. His take on the fourth quarter 2021 diesel market, “The diesel category is led by the Mercedes Sprinter whose availability has been increased by an expansion of the Ladson, SC plant. The Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ford Transit follow in this category, although declines in sales of the underlying products have reduced availability of the diesel versions.”  The supply chain and computer chip shortages are affecting nearly every automotive product in some way and diesels are no different. 

This is how we do fuel efficiency: Diesel options in the full-size pickup segment (Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado) as well as compact segments (Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon) emerged about two years ago. These new 3.0L diesel powertrains have delivered impressive fuel economy for a large vehicle, with the Chevy Silverado clocking an amazing 33-mpg highway rating from EPA for a full-size pickup!

SUV lovers and off-roading diesel enthusiasts rejoice: Diesel options in full size SUVs are also new in the last two years, including the class leading Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade as well as their larger variants, the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL, and Cadillac Escalade ESV. Off-roading diesel enthusiasts met their nirvana when Jeep began offering diesel options in its popular Wrangler and Gladiator vehicles

Get down to work: The most consistent market for diesel vehicles over the past 20 years has been in the heavier duty pickups - the 2500 series vehicles from Chevrolet and Ram Trucks as well as Ford (those weighing more than 8,500 lbs. GVWR). These are valued for their towing capabilities and fuel economy advantages over gasoline options particularly in extended highway driving while towing. Van options have increased with popularity of the Mercedes Sprinter vans not only for commercial work truck applications but also RV, custom outfitting and passenger transport.

Renewable biodiesel fuel ready: Uniquely, all diesel products available to consumers are approved for up to use of a 20% blend of biodiesel fuels. Choosing to use biodiesel in these vehicles reduces greenhouse gas emissions by anywhere from 20-80% depending on the feedstocks, without affecting performance. Biodiesel is available in over 720 stations all across the US. Check out the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center Fuel Locator to find stations near you.


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