2010 Audi A3 TDI named Green Car of the Year, 2009 LA Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Audi A3 TDI clean diesel - European modelEnlarge Photo
VW and Mercedes lead
Right now, diesels are offered in the U.S. by longtime diesel makers Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, plus newbies Audi and BMW. We think VW may have the big diesel winner in its new 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI.
The Japanese makers have now pulled way back on diesel projects. Nissan, Honda, and Subaru were all working on small diesels they planned to launch in the U.S. market during the 2009 and 2010 model years, but none has current plans to offer them.
Audi is on a roll with its diesels right now. Its 2010 Audi A3 TDI won the Green Car of the Year award at last week's Los Angeles Auto Show and in November, the TDI model made up 43 percent of A3 sales--all 391 of them.
While it projected the TDI diesel model to be 15 percent of its 2010 Audi Q7 sport utility sales, Audi president Johan de Nysschen says dealers can't keep them in stock, and they now represent 46 percent of orders. Audi has sold 6,600 Q7s so far this year.
Chance come and gone?
We tend to think that diesel had its chance two years ago when gasoline prices spiked. But diesel spiked even MORE then; remember $5/gallon diesel?
So while we expect clean diesels to grow in market share, it'll be a slow, slow process.