By on May 11, 2010

A study by Bosch, using R.L. Polk registration data [via GreenCarCongress], finds that fears of a diesel crash in the US might be overblown. The study found that vehicles offering diesel powertrains as an option recorded 30 percent diesel take levels. By comparison, ten percent or fewer chose hybrid versions of the Camry and Escape, although volumes of those vehicles are higher than the exclusively German nameplates that offer diesel options. In any case, these take numbers are certainly higher than the market had predicted. The diesel take rates by model are:

  • Audi A3 TDI: 20%
  • Audi Q7 TDI: 30%
  • BMW 335d: 8%
  • BMW X5 xDrive x35d: 17%
  • Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC: 18%
  • Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTEC: 13%
  • Mercedes-Benz R 350 BlueTEC: 12%
  • VW Jetta TDI (Sedan and Sportwagen): 49%+
  • Volkswagen Touareg TDI: 33%
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30 Comments on “Survey Finds 30 Percent Take Rate For US-Market Diesels...”


  • avatar
    cdotson

    Seems I had read somewhere recently that the diesel take rate on the Jetta Sportwagen was something like 80% and it was the higher-volume sedan with a much lower diesel sales rate. Can you verify that statistic?

  • avatar
    brettc

    I think the Jetta sales should show any manufacturer that if you offer a passenger car diesel option, people will buy it even if it costs thousands more.

    I know that in Canada at least, the Golf wagon (that’s what it’s called there) is basically sold out for the current model year. Canadians love diesel wagons when they’re available.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The study found that vehicles offering diesel powertrains as an option recorded 30 percent diesel take levels. By comparison, ten percent or fewer chose hybrid versions of the Camry and Escape, although volumes of those vehicles are higher than the exclusively German nameplates that offer diesel options

    And this is important: people who buy European are probably already going to be predisposed to diesel, and as such there’s a bias towards esoterica in the market. It’s a steady market; profitable, but going nowhere unless there’s a sea-change in economic factors. If VW et al could sell more, they’d certainly try.

    And yes, the hybrids do sell more. Much more. The Prius alone outsold the entire Volkswagen brand in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      psarhjinian

      Always love to read your replies.

      Do you like diesels?

      I do.
      I love turbos as well.
      I love the power.
      Love the strength.
      I like the fact that IF I use my synthetic oil, wash/wax…everything big and little to keep my car looking and running great, that it will be here for a long while and handed down to my kids and family.
      (I would NEVER have one in the rust belt)
      Hybrids will not do this.
      I am not exactly sure about the time needed to regain the money upping to diesel, but hybrids take forever.
      I was reading a few minutes ago how it will take 20 years to get back the money for a Escape hybrid.
      20 years?

      I think the rate of gas to diesel on the above cars looks wonderful. Its more than the hybrid/gas with others, I think.
      And Germans are the only ones bringing the choice to consumers.

      But like the hybrids, it’s all about being affordable.
      I would love an Audi3 or Bimmer3 diesel, but the cost!!!!

      Looking forward to what you have to say.
      You always bring up good anti diesel stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Hybrids will not do this.

      Oh, the jury is still out on that one. I’m willing to bet a Prius could give a jetta TDI a run for it’s money when it comes to long term reliability and durability.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I actually do like diesels. For the kind of driving I currently do, I think one would do me well and I’d seriously consider one. I don’t do nearly the urban miles I used to.

      I’d certainly not say no to the 335d.

      That said, there’s nothing you’ve credited to diesels that can’t be done by a hybrid as well. The current Prius and Golf Wagon TDI are very closely matched: they’re equally quick, spacious (the Prius has more people space; the Golf more cargo), parsimonious (the Prius is a little better) and they cost about the same for the same features, though you can option a Prius much higher in North America. The Golf is marginally more fun to drive, but the Prius rides better.

      The big difference is that the Golf has a theoretical durability advantage, while the Prius is proven to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the road.

      Which you prefer is really a matter of taste than outright performance. It certainly has nothing to do with TCO, which is proving to be in the Prius’ favour, certainly in North America. You’re quoting payback times: given that the Golf TDI and Prius are priced atop each other and the Prius is the more reliable vehicle that runs on cheaper fuel and gets better mileage, the question should be: does the Golf make sense, given it’s payback period?

      Were this about, say, an HS250h and 335d, well, then it’d be game over, but that has everything to do with the HS being kind of sad than the powertrains involved.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      I guess this is what is confusing to me…the longevity of the Prius.
      We know diesel.
      We know they last forever…not so sure about the repairs.
      I get different information from sources concerning hybrids. The battery is what concerns me. Has this really proven to be as reliable as diesel? Considering the concern is past 8 years…have we really seen this pass?
      Your one point about the Prius driving better than the Jetta has me bewildered as well. I have experienced great rides in the VWs I have driven and tested. Having NEVER driven the Prius, EVERYBODY states the exact opposite. In fact, not only is it NOT a driver’s car…they call it an appliance.
      This is from professional (?) reviewers.
      Very confusing….

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      “The Golf is marginally more fun to drive, but the Prius rides better.”

      Marginally??? Unfortunately the only experience I have actually driving the two that I can compare is a previous gen Prius rental I had not too long ago versus a GTI MkIV I used to own. Is the current gen Prius _that_ much better in the driving dynamics than the previous one? Is the current Golf _that_ much worse in the driving dynamics than the GTI MkIV? In the Golf (but not in the Prius), I can have a proper manual gearbox, tires with a bit more grip (yes, and thus higher rolling resistance), throttle control that isn’t nearly as constrained for economy by a compuer’s intervention, and brakes that are Autobahn-worthy in their stopping ability. Based on those things plus GTI MkIV vs. previous gen Prius experience, I’d say the Golf was *light years* more fun to drive than the Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      We know diesel.
      We know they last forever…not so sure about the repairs.

      We don’t actually know that. Those “diesels last forever” claims refer to the engine only, and we don’t drive engines, we drive whole cars. Think about all the electronics in a modern TDI, or the DSG transmission in many Volkswagens, or the complex fuel injection and emissions systems.

      The “diesel lasts forever” is largely a function of the reputation of naturally-aspirated or non-common-rail turbos from the 80s and earlier. It does not apply to modern TDIs, as the TCO and repair frequency of modern diesels isn’t better (and is often worse) than gas or hybrid-electric

      Meanwhile, we do know that Priuses from 2000 are not seeing appreciable battery degradation and are still among the most reliable on the road.

      I’m not saying that all hybrids are better—lord knows, the Civic and Insight prove that—but that carpet statements like “diesels last longer” need some critical examination.

  • avatar
    MBella

    It also doesn’t take into account that since these are the only diesel passenger car options, people who want a diesel car have to buy one of these. Who knows how many people would buy a Jetta TDI if an Accord Turbo-diesel was available.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 Insightful!

      I’m one of those people who given the choice, prefers to buy Diesel. For most of my adult life and price range that has been ONLY VW. Not much of a choice.
      When I lived in Europe we drove a Volvo (Diesel of course) but here in “The Land of the Free” we rarely have the choice of Diesel powertrains anywhere but at the high end of the market. Or trucks.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    The results seem to show that VW diesels sell great, otherwise not so much. (The Audi Q7 number is very surprising.)
    Remove the Jetta outlier and the rest of the bunch is below 19%.
    I’d also like to know how this correlates to price premium, and number of other versions of the platform. The 335d in particular is killed by the fact that a base 328 gets almost the same mileage for less $, and a gas 335 has better performance for less $.
    In the end, the idiotic hoops the EPA makes diesels jump through just doesn’t make it worth while to sell a few thousand cars.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      I agree the high diesel rate for VW Jetta models is seriously throwing off the analysis. Not sure you can generalize the whole market based on VW Jettas. To many people (me included) the ONLY VW worth considering is a diesel. Also if you want a new diesel and not pay ridiculous amounts of money for it, VW is the way to go.

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    FWIW, I bought a 2006 Jeep Liberty — and the only reason I bought it instead of Japanese was that it offered the CRD at the time.

    I’d love more diesel options, particularly in non-Euro form (I love the way Euro’s drive, but not how they kill you on maintenance costs). A 4Runner with a small diesel would suit me fine, thank you very much; the former Outback with the boxer diesel would have been heaven (the new one is too chickified, particularly with those headlights). Crossovers with small diesels could be attractive too (perhaps Mazda’s new diesels will address that).

    I do wonder if one of the reasons for the high Jetta takeup over the other German offerings is the fact that it isn’t burdened with AdBlue / Bluetec … I’d be very leery of a diesel having this extra complexity and required $$ for maintenance. In fact, until proven otherwise, AdBlue is a deal-killer for me.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, if you drill into it a bit, diesels and hybrids are not perfect replacements for each other. Hybrids offer small if any advantage on the highway over their non-exotic gasoline powered brethren. So, if you spend a lot of time on the highway, a diesel is your best bet.

    On the other hand, hybrids really come into their own in stop and go traffic and at low speeds. So, if you’re a suburban commuter, the hybrid seems to be a much better choice.

    As far as “payback” goes, both vehicles are a hedge against future fuel price increases.

    Personally, I think the jury is still out as to longevity of either powerplant. The in-service longevity of the hybrid battery is somewhat unknown. And today’s clean diesels are distant cousins of the “run forever” diesels of 30 years ago, like the pushrod 4 cylinder in the Mercedes 240D or even the 3-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder in the 300SD. While they may equal the old German stalwarts in durability and ruggedness, they are certainly far more complex.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      I think diesel longevity is well known.
      They have powered our transportation forwever.
      Nothing else comes close.

      But you are probably corret…both are for different driving needs.

      If urban, a hybrid would be great, but for highways and power, not likely.
      Diesels are the best for low end torque…unless turbos are considered.

      The big question is diesel pricing.
      Where should it be and what drives it?
      This seems a little unreliable and unexplained to me.

  • avatar
    valkraider

    Hybrids suck in the mountains or in cold climates. Turbo-diesels excel in the mountains.

    If VW sold a TDI EOS in the USA, I would buy two.

    I too had a 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD. The vehicle was mediocre but the engine was top notch. If they had put that engine in the Caravan/Town&Country they would have sold millions. A high mpg mini van with good torque would sell.

    If someone in the USA made available a small or mid sized diesel truck it would sell well too. A Ranger or S10 sized truck would sell well.

    Diesel’s don’t have to be in EVERY segment. But currently, unless you are rich and can afford the luxury brands, then your only choice is the Jetta (and now Golf). It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple more diesel models for normal families… We don’t need every car to be available in diesel…

    • 0 avatar
      maximus

      Someone actually will. Mahindra, an Indian conglomerate, is planning on bringing its 2 and 4-door compact diesel pickups to the US this year! I’m hearing great things about them, both in terms of performance and efficiency.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Why would anyone want a car that costs thousands more and requires a fuel that’s hard to find and often more expensive than gasoline? In Volkswagen’s case the answer is easy: their gasoline engines are mediocre. In light of this, a 49% take rate isn’t a mystery. Also, who cares about an engine that’ll last 500,000 miles if the rest of the car can’t last more than 100,000?

  • avatar
    Juniper

    A study by Bosch says Diesels are loved.
    What a surprise.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    That list, except for the VW’s, represents the higher end of the market where gas prices aren’t as big of a deal. The mpg of a BMW or MB isn’t high on the list of attributes that people are looking for. Those that ARE looking at mileage are looking at Hondas, Toyotas and the like and will cross-shop a Jetta. Apples and oranges and the stats reflect that.

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    I love the 335d. What hybrid will provide 40mpg on highway and still deliver 425 ft/lb torque?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I love the GS400h. What diesel could provide 340hp and still get city mileage over 25mpg?

      (note: EPA highway for the 335d is 36mpg, not 40, and I’ve personally seen a GSh beat 35mpg in the city, but anecdotes are like cloaca, as they say…)

    • 0 avatar
      wallstreet

      I believe you are referring to GS450h (GS400h is not available where I live) which does cost $12,000 + more than 335d. You do have a point on city driving, but most of my daily commute (40 miles) are going against the traffic on the highway. I get an average of 43 mpg and that is driving at 70 – 75 m/hr.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I LOVE the idea of having a diesel as does the wife, but vw’s just have too many bad stories. A guy at work has a 7 year old one that COMPLETELY fell apart…but the engine still works great. He ended up selling it as repairs for the non-engine parts cost more than the car was worth.

    This last week or two I went to see an aunt & uncle who LOVE their camry hybrid and boasted that going to chicago it got 40mpg in the real world on their trip! Our kia spectra ex rental, with a little careful driving averaged in the mid 30’s going up & down hills & low 30’s on flat ground with an anemic engine & 4 speed slushbox. I did do 2-3 tanks > 37mpg. Comfort/space wise it was great for us. Throw a cooler in the back seat with soda & water, and had room for several backpacks. Our luggage went in the trunk.

    IF I could get something that was 20-25k, had some OK options (powered mirrors/windows/locks, heat/ac are pretty much enough) and highway epa’d at 40+ and could last me 200k miles and had decent repair costs I’d snag one. Right now I think the closest thing might be the fiesta…but it isn’t diesel but I think meets pretty much all the other criteria. Being a family of 2 gives us a lot of flexibility in car size.

  • avatar
    gorluc

    Those % numbers for Audi A3 are totally incorrect. According to the sales figures for the past 2-3 months, A3 TDI take around 55% of overall sales for A3. Check it out under http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2010/05/03/475970.html . The numbers could be even better if Audi would reease more TDI engines … apparently with weak US$ they were not profiting as much as they would like to. today (05/11) US$ is gaining against EUR and that would offset “losses”.

    In addition, the way the car makers see this issue is a bit different than what we see. They would like to steal the customers from competitors and do not re-shuffle its own market. Typicall example was for MB GL vs. ML. When GL came to the market, the majority of the GL buyers were previous ML owners. Only few years later, GL gained the numbers by lurring the customers from other companies.

    3rd reason why we do not see more clean diesels (in my opinion), is that car companies still see diesel engine as entry level engine. Having said that, there is a possibility that diesel engine would kill gas entry engine e.g. A3 2.0T vs. A3 TDI. A3 proove that to be wrong theory. But nobody wants to take bet on that as they often say “one swallow does not make spring” . . .

    At the end, the real issue is that apart from Germans no other car maker has “fine tuned” diesel engines that would fit USA standards. Getting one on road is around 500 MIL$ . . . and that does not pay off. I bet that if Hyundai, Honda or Toyota come with their Eruopean diesel engines in US cars, they would hammer the Germans . . .

    • 0 avatar

      Honda? The weird thing about them, they can make an amazing jet engine that blows Williamses out the water and yet they cannot make a diesel. What gives?

      Toyota? Consumers are crying for a diesel Tundra since forever. No sign of any change thus far.

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