Who Might Buy Diesels? Gasoline Drivers, Not Hybrid Owners

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With a raft of new diesel vehicles entering the market this year and next, the question arises: Who exactly will buy them?

Based on the results of a survey to be released later this morning, Volkswagen of America suggests that some drivers of gasoline cars are likely to be open to the benefits of diesel cars--but that many hybrid drivers are not.

The study, the first annual "Clean Diesel IQ Survey," will be released tonight at a forum, “Clean Diesel on the Rise”, sponsored by the German American Chamber of Commerce.

The study measured the attitudes, opinions and beliefs about clean diesel vehicles among 1,500 gasoline, hybrid and clean diesel drivers.

Among its findings:

  • Drivers of modern diesel cars are deeply committed to the technology, and understand both its fuel-efficiency benefits and that it complies with all emissions rules
  • Those diesel drivers listed fuel efficiency and strong acceleration as the top benefits of the technology
  • Non-diesel drivers often lack a broader grasp of today's state of clean-diesel technology, or the degree of improvement over passenger-car diesels of 10 years ago
  • Drivers can be categorized by their attitudes toward today's diesel cars as "Diesel Dedicated," "Diesel Curious," or "Diesel Maligner"
  • More than half of today's gasoline and hybrid drivers understand diesel's fuel efficiency
  • But more than one-third of gasoline and hybrid drivers still feel diesel vehicles are noisy and smell bad, against less than 5 percent of diesel drivers
  • Gasoline and hybrid drivers also over-estimate the payback period in which fuel efficiency offsets the higher cost of a diesel powertrain
  • 94 percent of current diesel owners want to buy another diesel car

While Volkswagen has released earlier survey results showing that diesel drivers and hybrid drivers are very different, the new survey shows where makers of diesel cars may choose to focus their marketing efforts: among current drivers of gasoline cars who are open to the diesel message.

"We know that once a driver experiences a clean diesel vehicle," said Volkswagen's Douglas Skorupski, "they become dedicated to the diesel powertrain.”

DISCLOSURE: This author will be moderating the forum tonight at which this study will be released.

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