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Consumers give diesel engines a vote of confidence for pickup truck power

Diesel engines are a growing choice in the pickup market.
Diesel engines are a growing choice in the pickup market.

Consumers are showing confidence in diesel power when it comes to selecting engines for pickup trucks, according to the Diesel Technology Forum.

Quarterly sales data and analysis suggest that full-size and commercial pickup trucks with diesel engine options are being selected more frequently, a new report indicates. Second quarter sales data shows that advanced diesels in full-size trucks and SUVs have increased from 0.6 percent of total sales in 2019 to 1.0 percent thus far in 2020. In the commercial model market, comprised of Class 2 and 3 trucks, diesels make up 3.4 percent of year to date, up from 2.2 percent last year.

"While percentages may be small and reflect the dramatically pandemic-altered 2020 market, directionally they do reinforce that diesels are a desirable option for half-ton pickups, and a consistent choice for commercial users. Now more than ever, buyers are seeking a proven, no-compromise vehicle experience, delivering the combination of power, performance, driving range, towing capability and more fuel efficiency, all in a larger vehicle, and that's what they get in choosing a diesel engine option," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit association representing manufacturers of diesel engines and equipment, key suppliers of emissions control and other technologies and fuel producers.

COVID-19 has taken a big chunk out of the overall market, with June down more than 25 percent from the previous year, and sales down just under 25 percent year-to-date. In June, as well as thus far in 2020, plug-in, full battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles trailed the overall market, according to the Diesel Technology Forum alert and data supplied by Alan Baum, Baum & Associates; in the same timeframe, diesels and hybrids did better than the overall market.

"Since 1980, full-size pickup trucks have held the ranking as the most popular, highest selling vehicles in the U.S. for American families and businesses alike that underscores the tremendous fuel-saving opportunity as more choose a diesel option," said Schaeffer. "According to recent research from IHS Markit commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, consumers choosing a diesel engine option in full-size half-ton pickup trucks can achieve on average 33 percent more miles per gallon (24 mpg diesel vs. 18.1 gasoline, combined fuel economy), saving about 200 gallons of gasoline every year. If all full-size pickup trucks in the U.S. were to be powered by a diesel engine, the research found that we would realize a savings of ~500 million gallons of fuel for one model year.

"Among the choices, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the Chevy Silverado 1500 Duramax diesel, already have impressive recognition and industry awards under their belt. And rounding out the lineup of new diesel options in pickup trucks coming later in 2020 is an all new for 2021 Jeep Gladiator with the 3.0L EcoDiesel option.

"Second only to full-size pickup trucks, SUVs are the most popular and fastest growing vehicle segment in the U.S., so the availability of more fuel-efficient diesel engine options is welcome news. In this segment, 2020 will get a boost later this year as five exciting new diesel options for consumers in popular SUVs with recent announcements by General Motors' Chevrolet and GMC divisions of the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and Cadillac Escalade. All new products will offer the all-new 3.0L Duramax turbo-diesel engine option that already has some impressive accomplishments in the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck where the Duramax diesel posted EPA highway fuel economy performance of a record 33 mpg for a half-ton truck. In addition to the Gladiator, Jeep also debuts the 3.0L EcoDiesel option in its iconic and popular Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon in 2020, achieving an EPA rated 29 mpg in highway driving.

"American consumers are increasingly interested in the eco-performance of their vehicles and choosing a more-efficient diesel engine opens up even more possibilities such as the ability to use high-quality advanced biofuels, including biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. By doing so this further lowers the vehicle carbon footprint, beyond the fuel efficiency advantage over gasoline. Advanced biofuels like renewable diesel fuel and blends of high-quality biodiesel add an important dimension to the diesel offering; one that boosts sustainability of a personal vehicle choice."

The Diesel Technology Forum reports that nearly 50 new choices are available with diesel power in 2020, with offerings from light-duty pickups to heavy-duty trucks, vans and SUVs.

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