Diesel and electrified vehicles from German OEMs enjoying increased popularity in U.S.

  • 16-Jan-2014 04:01 EST
VW e-Golf.jpg

Volkswagen's e-Golf has a 24.2 kW·h lithium-ion battery and 85-kW electric motor.

The product portfolios of German automakers include clean diesel and hybrid-electric vehicles, and these advanced powertrains are gaining traction in the U.S. market.

“In accordance with our broad-based strategy, we are not putting all our eggs in one basket,” Matthias Wissmann, President of the VDA (Germany’s auto industry association), said Jan. 13 at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. "Instead, we are actively pursuing all the options. And one of them is the clean diesel."

Even though U.S. market share of clean diesel light-duty vehicles is a fraction of the near 50% share seen in some Western European countries, diesel vehicle sales are climbing in the U.S.

“Sales of diesel vehicles in the U.S. in 2013 from January to October rose by nearly 13 percent, thus growing much faster than the overall market, which speaks in favor of this highly efficient drivetrain,” Wissmann said. The diesel share of the U.S. light-duty market has continued on an uptick since 2009, reaching 2.8% of the overall U.S. passenger vehicle market in 2013.

Paul Ferraiolo, Manager of Product Planning and Strategy for BMW North America, said in an Automotive Engineering interview that the appeal of diesel is threefold: fuel economy, torque, and driving range. “Diesels are extremely important for success in Europe, and I’m happy that we can bring some of the best diesels in the world to the U.S.," he said. "Right now we have six different diesel models, and we’re getting ready in the near future to launch two more.”

The diesel list in the U.S. also includes offerings from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volkswagen, as well as non-German offerings—namely, the Chevrolet Cruze and the Mazda Mazda6.

German automakers' hybrid-electric vehicles also have been catching the eyes of U.S. buyers. Said Wissmann: “Last year the German manufacturers quadrupled their U.S. sales of hybrid cars, from nearly 1900 vehicles to just under 7600. We see considerable market potential here because not only is the market growing, so is the portfolio.”

The U.S. market’s hybrid-electric offerings from German automakers include the Audi Q5, the BMW 3, 5, and 7 Series, the Mercedes E and S-Class, the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne, and the Volkswagen Jetta and Touareg.

Hybrid-electric technology, said BMW's Ferraiolo, is still in its infancy: “The volumes are low. But when the new versions come out, we expect to see that business grow because the customer benefits are increasing and the customer penalty for having BMW ActiveHybrid is diminishing.”

Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles are also on the radar. In 2014, BMW will offer the i8 plug-in. The MY2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid is Porsche’s first plug-in, and its next plug-in hybrid is the MY2015 918 Spyder with a starting price of $845,000. All-electric vehicles from the German automakers include the recently launched MY2014 Smart electric drive; the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, available in June 2014; the BMW i3, available in the second quarter of 2014, and VW’s e-Golf, which goes on sale in select states fourth quarter 2014.

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