Are Diesels Better Than Hybrids?

Volkswagon Jetta TDI
Volkswagon Jetta TDI

I get the e-mails on a pretty regular basis. Almost all of them say the same thing: clean diesel cars are a great alternative for people who want fuel efficiency and a better driving experience so why aren't Americans waking up and buying more diesels?

Invariably, we have an e-mail exchange where I say there are not many diesel models for sale, and many Americans still remember the days when diesel cars were smelly, noisy, and incredibly unimpressive. The diesel lovers respond, "don't be ignorant" about the virtues of the new clean diesel models.

Green Invests Here | See Complete Coverage
Green Invests Here | See Complete Coverage

Well, for those people (and yes, there are tens of thousands out there) the latest study from Intellichoice is a reason to rejoice.

In its annual cost of ownership study, Intellichoicefinds the 5 year savings for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI (versus a standard model Jetta) is greater than the savings you get from a Toyota Prius vs. a standard model Camry.

Annual Cost of Ownership

2009 Model and Trim
MSRP Premium
5-Yr Cost of Ownership Savings
Volkswagen Jetta TDI $2,070 $6,210
Toyota Prius (vs. Camry) $1,805 $4,930
Saturn Aura Green Line $1,480 $2,185
Mercedes-Benz GL320 BlueTEC ($1,000) $4,645
Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4WD . $615 $3,821
Ford Escape Hybrid AWD $4,725 $2,123

The full results are below.

Keep in mind Intellichoice factors in more than just what you save at the pump in calculating ownership savings. Also included are other factors like insurance, maintenance, etc.

VW has long been pushing diesel models in the U.S., and in fact, it has sold more than 800,000 in this country. It's now running a marketing campaign promoting clean diesel as the best option for those who want fuel efficiency. While gas prices are not as high as they were last year, the message has a better chance of connecting with buyers than a few years ago when diesel was an option with limited appeal.

But can diesel replace hybrids as the most attractive option for those who want a car powered by something other than unleaded gasoline?

I doubt it.

Yes, I know that answer is going to drive diesel fans nuts. But two factors will limit sales of diesels.

First, there are far fewer diesel models than hybrid models. Second, until the cost of diesel becomes substantially lower than unleaded, car buyers will see no incentive to buying diesel of a standard model.

Still, the latest Intellichoice study is reason for optimism among diesel fans.

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