Published June 20, 2012
By Philippe Crowe
A recently published report from Pike Research finds that rising fuel prices and stronger fuel economy regulations will stimulate increasing demand for clean diesel vehicles in markets around the world, and the firm forecasts that sales of these vehicles will increase from 9.1 million in 2012 to 12.1 million annually by 2018, with clean diesels representing 12.4% of all light duty vehicle (LDV) sales by the end of that period.
Modern diesel vehicles have undergone a major transformation in their emissions profiles in recent years. The European Union, Japan, and the United States have implemented stringent LDV emissions regulations covering diesel vehicles as well as diesel fuel.
“Demand for diesel cars is primarily driven by their fuel economy,” says Pike Research senior analyst Lisa Jerram. “A diesel vehicle typically gets 20 percent to 40 percent better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline car. This factor, along with favorable tax treatment for diesel fuel, has made diesel cars tremendously popular in Europe, where they have accounted for around 50% of LDV sales over the past several years. Due to Europe’s very high fuel prices, the price premium of a diesel car can be paid off quickly.”
Jerram adds that other markets that have not traditionally been strong diesel markets are beginning to open up now. North America, in particular, has been a weak market for diesel LDVs for 20 years. This is largely due to the low gasoline prices in the United States, which has not spurred drivers to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles of any type, including diesel. However, in 2011, the diesel market began to show signs of revival, and Pike Research anticipates that the growth of diesel LDVs will be especially strong in North America during the coming years, with annual sales volumes expected to increase from 282,000 vehicles in 2012 to 928,000 by 2018. Due to emissions regulations in the United States and Canada, all of these diesel vehicles will be clean diesels.
According to the report, with rising gas prices and stronger fuel economy regulations coming into effect, the United States should see rising demand for diesel cars and trucks. From 2012 to 2018, North America will experience a cumulative growth rate of 22%, reaching annual sales of just under 1 million LDVs. Diesel will still remain a niche vehicle, due to the lack of ubiquitous fuel availability and the higher price of diesel than gas, but Pike Research forecasts that they will capture a slightly higher percentage of new U.S. vehicles sales than hybrids. Globally, clean diesel LDVs will experience much lower growth, with Western Europe continuing to dominate global sales. The availability of clean diesel is almost entirely driven by emission regulations and many countries with strong diesel car markets do not yet have such regulations in place.
Pike Research’s analysis indicates that many countries with strong diesel car markets do not yet have such emissions regulations in place, and therefore in the long term, tremendous upside potential exists for growth in the clean diesel market as additional regulatory measures are implemented around the world.