Why almost a third of new-car shoppers are considering diesel

Jeff Bartlett
June 11, 2013
Why almost a third of new-car shoppers are considering diesel


Among consumers likely to purchase a vehicle in the next two years, 31 percent are likely to consider a diesel, motivated by fuel economy and environmental concerns. This tidbit is among the findings of a recent survey conducted by the National Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS).

To better understand consumers, NACS conducted an online survey last month of almost 1,200 Americans who buy gasoline. (Read the related report: "Ethanol doesn't spark interest among consumers.")

These diesel-curious shoppers will find an increasing number of vehicles to choose from, including the well-established Volkswagen Jetta and Passat, luxury SUVs like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK250, and the new Chevrolet Cruze. And there are many more diesels coming to market soon.

To learn more about electric cars and hybrids, visit our alternative-fuel car guide.

The reasons for considering diesel Percent
Better fuel economy 59
Better for the environment 33
Are more reliable 30
Less maintenance than gas engines 29
Ability to use biodiesel 25
More power/towing ability 24
High resale value 23
Are more rugged 15
The desired vehicle requires diesel fuel 11

We have found that diesel models can provide exceptional fuel economy, although the powertrain often carries an added expense and the fuel prices tend to be higher than regular gasoline. Right now, diesel averages about 22 cents more per gallon, although its fuel economy benefits are generally much greater than the price premium. (See the latest national gasoline prices by region.)

Other answers strike us as curious, such as being better for the environment. While a diesel car may burn less petroleum, the smog-forming emissions are typically greater than with a contemporary gas-fueled car.

Likewise, the reliability perception born from past performance may no longer be so distinct. In our reliability surveys, we have not seen an appreciable difference with most models offered with gas and diesel powertrains where we have adequate data.

As surveys often point to, it is important for car shoppers to not base their selection strictly on perception. Check the data--readily available at ConsumerReports.org for all major models--before buying.

Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.