Diesel Economics 200: 40% Take Rate for 2010

By Jonathan Spira on 8 July 2010
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A new analysis by The Diesel Driver shows a growing preference for diesel-powered cars compared to petrol-powered equivalent models

The Diesel Driver recently obtained detailed sales data from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, the four companies that currently offer diesel-powered passenger vehicles in the U.S. The data cover the first six months of 2010 and show that diesel sales continue to increase substantially. Indeed, if the trend holds, over 40% of buyers of cars for which there are diesel- and petrol-powered equivalent models will choose the diesel in 2010.

In Diesel Economics 102, we looked at 2009 figures for diesel sales versus comparable petrol-powered models as well as at select figures for 2010 models.

Given the fact that the diesel market in the United States, for all intents and purposes, was virtually non-existent a few years ago, the fact that 30% of all buyers chose a diesel variant in 2009 (versus the petrol equivalent) was noteworthy.

The new figures portend an even more interesting story for diesel in 2010.

The 2010 sales data show that two diesel models consistently outsold their petrol variant, namely the Audi A3 TDI and the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI.  While the Audi oil burner barely edged out the gasoline model, with sales of 1546 cars versus 1478, the Jetta Sportwagen TDI, with sales of 10,314, outsold the non-diesel by more than 5 to 1.

In the aggregate, for the first half of 2010, 36% of buyers overall chose a diesel over the equivalent petrol variant

Some diesel models outsold their petrol equivalents in specific months.   In April 2010, for example, the BMW 335d outsold the 335i by a ratio of 6 to 5.  In May 2010, the BMW X5 xDrive35d outsold the X5 xDrive30i by a ratio of 6 to 1. The 335d outsold the 335i again in June, this time by a ratio of 7 to 5. In January, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI outsold the petrol Touareg by a ratio of 8 to 7.

Audi was the leader in the percentage of buyers choosing a diesel over the petrol variant:  for the first six months of 2010, 46% of A3 and Q7 buyers chose the diesel, for a total of 2600 cars.

In terms of pure volume, however, Volkswagen was the clear winner: VW sold 23,294 diesel-powered passenger cars during the same period – almost three times as many as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz combined.  37% of Volkswagen buyers chose a diesel over the equivalent petrol-powered vehicle.

BMW came in second in volume, with sales of 4,682 diesel-powered cars, with 37% of BMW buyers choosing a diesel.

In fourth place was Mercedes-Benz, the company that introduced the first passenger diesel car in 1936.  Mercedes sold 1,375 diesels during the first six months of 2010; 18% of buyers chose a diesel over the petrol equivalent.

More new diesel models are on the way.  Mercedes-Benz, which currently only offers sport-utility vehicles with diesel engines, will begin to offer an E-Class diesel sedan in September.  In addition, BMW has announced it will add two more diesel models to its line-up, including a 5er Series diesel, by mid 2011.  By 2014, according to Jim O’Donnell, president of BMW of North America, “10 to 20 percent of our mix will be diesels.”