2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In HybridEnlarge Photo
Traditionally, the U.S. has been a market where gasoline vehicles have dominated, while hybrids have seen increasing success and diesels have really only sold in relatively small numbers.
In contrast, low diesel fuel prices in Europe have seen its popularity increase over the past few decades. Their high gas mileage has generally seen hybrid vehicles occupying a small niche in the market.
Is each continent coming around to the ways of the other? It might seem that way, at a glance.
Automotive News reports Toyota has seen a large rise in demand for its hybrid models, 29 percent higher in 2012 than it was in 2011.
Toyota and Lexus hybrid new car sales have topped 100,000 models for the first time, reaching 109,478. Over 83,000 of those were from Toyota's hybrid range, which includes the Prius, the Prius+ (a rebadged Prius V with two more seats), Prius Plug-In, Yaris Hybrid subcompact and Auris Hybrid compact.
At the same time, diesel models are beginning to appear in volume on the U.S. market. Volkswagen's diesel range has been popular for years, but several other marques now sell diesel cars too.
Importantly, two U.S. carmakers have recently joined the fray--Chevrolet, with the Cruze Diesel, and Jeep, with its Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel. That Jeep could be joined by even more models, and if those prove successful, it's likely we'll see more U.S-built diesels appearing over the next few years.
No big changes
Despite the increasing success of each vehicle type, we're not expecting any paradigm shift just yet.
German auto parts maker Bosch predicted in 2012 that one in ten new cars in the U.S. would be diesel by 2015. That seemed awfully optimistic at the time and even more so now, with a mere handful of extra diesels on the market.
Even if diesel Cruze and Jeep sales really take off--and they'd need to improve diesel sales by a whole 9 percent, or the best part of 1.5 million vehicles. One tenth of the market is still a way off Europe's diesel addiction, where over half of all new cars sold use the fuel.
And that means hybrids have a way to go too--Toyota's total of 109,000 vehicles is 0.87 percent of Europe's total 12.5 million vehicle sales in 2012.
Like the U.S, Toyota is by far the largest seller of hybrid vehicles in Europe--we expect Europe's hybrid figures are little more than 1 percent--the same proportion diesels take in the U.S. market.
So are hybrids and diesels going to take over Europe and the U.S.? Not for a while, at least--but the good news is, consumers are clearly looking for ever more efficient vehicles.