April 5, 2002

One-third of new car buyers would consider clean diesel engine – J.D. Power and Associates

Agoura Hills, California – Nearly one-third of new-vehicle buyers indicate they have some level of purchase consideration for a vehicle with a clean diesel engine-about the same number that indicate they have heard of clean diesel technology, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Consumer Diesel Overview Study released yesterday.

Of the more than 5,200 survey respondents, 12 percent say they are “very likely” and 19 percent indicate they are “somewhat likely” to purchase a new vehicle with a clean diesel engine. Despite these numbers, only 5 percent of respondents say they are “very familiar” with clean diesel technology.

“Consumers are already aware of traditional diesel engines and many have developed a rather negative image of them,” said Thad Malesh, director of the alternative power technology practice at J.D. Power and Associates.m “Manufacturers have to combat the negative attitudes toward diesel engines and inform consumers that a clean diesel is cleaner, quieter and more environmentally friendly than the diesels that are on the road today.”

Clean diesel technology was defined for survey respondents as “comparable performance of that of a gasoline engine, but the typical diesel noise, vibration and pollution have been reduced to that of a gasoline engine.”

An interesting dichotomy exists when comparing consumer feelings of the benefits of traditional and clean diesel engines. On the diesel side, 34 percent of consumers see a benefit of better fuel economy. However, the same percentage of respondents don’t know of any benefit for diesels, and 59 percent would not consider purchasing a vehicle with a traditional diesel engine, which they associate with pollution, odour, noise and performance issues.

One of the key reasons consumers give for considering clean diesel technology is that they expect these engines to have cleaner emissions, along with better fuel economy, power, durability and dependability. Of the 46 percent of respondents who are unlikely to consider this technology, the primary reasons given for lack of intent are the need for more information and concern about the availability of diesel fuel, as well as some of the traditional concerns about diesel engines, including noise and pollution.

The study shows consumers most expect to see diesel engines in full-size and compact pickups, while they least expect clean diesel engines in minivans and entry SUVs.

The study also assesses the competitive balance between stand-alone clean diesel engines and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle technology. Consumers perceive clean diesel as a technology for larger vehicles that has potential to move into smaller vehicles, while gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle technology is developing in small vehicles with the potential to move into larger vehicles.

“There is a range in the midsize car segment where consumers express interest for both technologies,” Malesh said. “The challenge will be to understand if the two technologies can co-exist or if one will dominate.”

While there is one commercial-use pickup with a clean diesel engine on the market today, Malesh said it will likely be five years or more before it is offered in cars and light trucks. There are currently three hybrid vehicles-all compact cars-available today, and as many as 20 models are anticipated by mid-decade.

The Consumer Diesel Overview Study is a companion study to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates Hybrid Vehicle Consumer Acceptance Study. Collectively the two studies identify how clean diesel engine technology and hybrid electric vehicles can both exist in the consumer market as separate and distinct alternatives to the gasoline engine.

J.D. Power and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at www.jdpa.com

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