Diesel Pickup Sales Are Revving Up: Study


Diesel engines long have been popular with heavy-duty pickup truck buyers, thanks to their abundant torque for towing and hauling, better fuel economy and extended cruising range compared to their gasoline counterparts, as well as greater residual values for resale. As diesels become more widely available in light-duty pickups, those sales are likely to rise for many of the same reasons.

A recent study by the Diesel Technology Forum found that diesel sales are holding their own in all types of passenger vehicles, despite recent emissions issues with Volkswagen and other manufacturers. Currently diesel engines account for about 3 percent of passenger vehicle sales and around 13 percent for pickups. According to the study, more than 6.6 million diesel pickups on the road in 2017, the model-year the study used.

"Hands down, diesel pickups offer some of the best value for consumers," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, in a statement. "On top of gaining 20 percent to 35 percent more torque and towing power, diesel pickups can go an extra 150 miles per tank of fuel, and can save owners an average of 200 gallons of fuel per year. We calculated these benefits out across the full pickup truck segment, and if every full-size pickup truck in America used diesel fuel, we'd save more than 500 million gallons of fuel each year — the same as if 15 percent of all cars in the U.S. switched entirely to electric power."

No Longer Just a Heavy-Duty Option

Until recently, virtually all diesel pickup sales were limited to heavy-duty models (also known as three-quarter and one -tons), where the lion's share of all brands are sold with diesel powertrains. With Ford, for example, the percentage of F-250 and F-350 pickups sold with diesel power is a whopping 72 percent, according to a company spokesperson.

Now that the Ford F-150 — which has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for decades — is available with a 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-diesel producing 250 horsepower and 440 pounds-feet of torque, Ford is likely to see more diesels rolling off dealer lots. Especially since the F-150's newest power plant is also notable for its 30 mpg EPA highway fuel mileage rating.

Not to be left behind, Chevrolet is joining the fray for 2019 with a new 3.0-liter turbo-diesel Silverado 1500. And Ram, which was first with a smaller turbo-diesel in light-duty pickups, is finishing up certification of its EcoDiesel engine for the all-new 2019 Ram 1500.

Van and SUV Diesels

The Diesel Technology Forum study also found diesels are growing in popularity with van buyers. With the Ford Transit Connect compact vans joining full-size diesel models from Ford and Ram, commercial vans make up the fastest-growing category of diesel sales. Last year saw a sales increase of more than 44 percent, translating to about 5 percent of all domestic van sales.

SUV buyers also are getting more choices as domestic manufacturers have joined their European counterparts with new diesel versions of the Chevrolet Equinox and Jeep Wrangler. With their greater torque capability at lower engine rpm, diesels are a natural for rock crawling and other types of off-roading.

As you weigh all the new diesel choices, keep in mind that there are some drawbacks: Not only will you pay a premium for a diesel engine, regularly scheduled maintenance is likely to be higher than with a gasoline engine and the fuel can be, depending on where you live, more expensive as well. And even with wide availability nationwide, diesel fuel is only available at about half of all gasoline stations. photo by Evan Sears; Manufacturer images




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