By on October 29, 2010

We’ve hosted our fair share of diesel skepticism over the years here at TTAC, but the latest data on diesel take rates indicate that oil-burners are more popular than you might think. broke down sales of every passenger vehicle with a diesel option, and found an overall take rate of 32 percent over the first three quarters of 2010, and trending upwards. In the third quarter, over half of the two Audis with diesel drivetrains optional were ordered as oil burners, and the vast majority of Jetta Sportwagons sold are diesel-powered. And no wonder. Modern diesel engines can be glorious things, offering gobs of torque, shocking levels of refinement and great fuel economy. Diesel prices may have climbed somewhat in the last year or so (it’s no longer cheaper than gas), but they’re close enough to make diesel a real option. Well, at least for buyers of German cars.

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22 Comments on “Diesel Options Enjoy One-Third Take Rate...”

  • avatar

    “no longer cheaper than gas”

    Personally, I haven’t seen diesel below 87 octane in about 10 years. But at least the $1 premium from 2008 is gone. That was pretty scary…probably had a lot to do with diesels’ lack of uptake back then. It’s the catch 22 of requiring ULSD to sell better diesels, but the transition was costly, thus reducing diesels’ appeal.

    Honda and Nissan come to mind as missing the boat here. Honda killed the Accord Hybrid and promised a diesel version, which never materialized. Nissan could source some great Renault diesels, too. The jump to electrics is just too much a leap to make in one bound. There needs to be a transition phase and some drivetrain diversification. Yes, inventory management will be a PITA.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s true in Southern California.  Diesel is now more expensive than 87 octane.  From 2009 through just about two months ago, D2 was cheaper than 87.  I believe we’re seeing the price increase of diesel due to the declining dollar, global economic recovery, and that more diesel passengers are being sold in the US than in decades past.  Hopefully soon, we’ll see synthetic diesel hitting the markets.  Even sooner, I hope California lifts its restrictions on biodiesel.

  • avatar

    The 3-series comparison really should include both the 328i and 335i, not just the latter (which is a performance model).

    • 0 avatar
      John Galt

      Not really. The 328s and 335s may look similar, but that’s about it.  Have you driven both or are you speaking from non-experience?

    • 0 avatar

      What market are you talking about Galt? In the US, they’re all the same. If you don’t go heavy on the options list, you get a plastic taxicab no matter what is under the hood. If you’re talking performance, maybe BMW is making some odd claims to justify the 335d’s price. The reality is it is closer to a 328 than a 335i in everything except for price and handling, where the lighter engined 328 owns the others.

      Of course you can get a manual transmission with a gasoline powered 3-series in the US, only helping their case relative to this table.

  • avatar

    Likewise the GTI is missing from the golf figures.  It looks like they have been somewhat selective over which petrol engines are included to help inflate the percentages.

    The headline should be One-Third Take Rate vs selected equivalent petrol model. I’m not sure why they selected 335i vs 335d, but TDI vs regular golf (rather than GTI which is closer in price / performance).

  • avatar

    Makes more sense on some cars than others. While I think the diesel engine in the X5 and ML is a great choice, I don’t see the point in the 335d – it isn’t really fast, nor frugal and the cast iron block is not good for weight distribution.

    • 0 avatar
      John Galt

      What are you comparing the 335d to???  I have a 335d and average 30 mpg, have a 485 mile range, and the difference from 0-60 vs a 335i is 0.3 sec. This 425 ft-lb torque monster is a hoot to drive since its 0-45 time will beat most cars in its price range, and it is practical at the same time to boot.  I’m a pragmatist and this car fits me like a glove.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually it’s an aluminum block and head. It’s also not only the most efficient 3, but the most efficient BMW sold in America. In addition, it’s the fastest production diesel in the US.

      John, it’s actually better; a 585 mile ‘official’ range. I’ve gotten a 600 mile range on flat interstate on performance tires.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you ever drive one ? The 35d is really a great engine and personally I can’t see the point of a 35i – the only drawback would be that BMW is also offering a 30d and, in a X5, there’s no real difference between the “3 liter” and the “3.5 liter” (they are basically the same engine after all)

    • 0 avatar


      All BMW 6 cylinder engines currently offered in the US are 3 liters, whether they’re badged as 2.8 liters, 3.5 liters, naturally aspirated, turbocharged or turbodiesels.

    • 0 avatar

      @CJinSD – That’s what I meant by “basically the same engines”… If I remember correctly the only variations are made on cartography and turbos.

  • avatar

    Diesels are popular everywhere in the world except the US.  Blame it on formally smokey, noisy diesel trucks, the GM diesel fiasco back in the 80’s, and ignorance on the part of most of the US car buying public.
    Diesels have unmatched economy and longevity.  My 2001 Golf TDI still gets 50mpg, it doesn’t smoke at all, still has it’s major original parts untouched/unrebuilt, and has over 400,000 miles on it with no signs of wearing out any time soon.
    We need more small (2.0L and under) diesel cars and 2.5L light diesel trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes bring on the small diesel trucks already. My buddy just picked up a Ram diesel, its too big of a truck for me, but the inline turbo 6 that gets 24 mpg with crazy torque – me want, but only in a Dakota sized package.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      European tax preferences don’t hurt either, vs tax PENALTIES for diesel in the US..
      That said, if I had a long commute, I’d prefer a new diesel over a gasoline-electric hybrid..
      And traditionally, diesel price was quite seasonal: during the non-home-heating months it would go down to between 87-89 octane in price, but for winter it would push past premium..  Not so much these days, even with record levels of diesel distillates inventories..

    • 0 avatar
      John Galt

      Check out the Mahindra, coming to NA soon

  • avatar

    This chart does nothing to convince me that there is a large diesel market waiting to be tapped in the US. Games were played with model selection to inflate the relative take rate of diesel engines. The result is that diesels picked up one third of a small pie. If people wanted diesels, they had to buy these cars. We’re talking about 55,353 sales in 9 months. Honda probably sold that many white Accords in the same period. If everyone starts offering diesels, there is an excellent chance that the total number won’t grow much, but each manufacturer’s piece of it will shrink. If it isn’t the case that diesel is bringing in conquest sales for VW and BMW, then the alternative is that people will still get the same car they were going to, only they’ll get it with a diesel engine. Why would it help profitability to add another drivetrain and make the same total sales? Diesels are a niche market at the moment. Niche markets don’t last long when everyone tries to mine them.

  • avatar

    speaking as a former Jetta TDI sportwagen owner, that number is bogus when it comes to buyer preference. For 2010, VW killed the 2.0T gas engine option on the sportwagen. Your only options for engines are now ‘TDI’ or ‘boat anchor’.   Of course people are going to take the TDI by default.

  • avatar

    None of these models are sold in quantities. That’s probably both the cause and the result of equipping it with a diesel engine.
    Even the VW models.. you know VW has a market share of 2%, right?

  • avatar

    It’s too bad that they didn’t include Canada in those figures, especially for VW. Ontario has a high takeup rate for the TDI’s, somewhere around 40% and Quebec is even higher. I think that Quebec has the highest diesel sales in all of NA for VW.

    BTW those quoting Cali gas figures as gospel, give it up. Diesel hasn’t been higher that regular for over 2 years and doesn’t look like that going to change anytime soon. Cali is an outlier, not mainstream.

  • avatar

    Diesel is really cheap (think 1999 prices) if you make it yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      Preferably WVO. Or (best) grew-it-myself virgin oil (veg/algae/whatever).
      “Biodiesel” is inherently wasteful and environmentally harmful/sad (whatcha gonna do with the byproducts? Huh?) Glycerine everywhere? Feed it to the Chinese? What?
      Willie Nelson is someone who has smoked every day for far too long to have enough functional brain cells left to make an intelligent decision. C’mon now, we all know a few…

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