The rebound in automotive sales of 31% in the third-quarter of 2020 is led by growth in pickup trucks and SUVs, categories with the most advanced, fuel-efficient diesel options for consumers, according to the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit educational association. 

“With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to have far reaching impacts on every aspect of life and the economy, U.S. auto sales saw a 31% rebound in the third quarter of 2020 adding almost 1-million more vehicles sold from the previous three months,” said Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum. 

“Sales of pickups and larger SUVs, are leading this rebound, having nearly recovered to the level one year ago while sales of sedans and smaller cars are still at historic lows, according to data provided by Alan Baum and Associates.

Diesel accounted for 44.3% of all third-quarter 2020 Alternative-Fuel Vehicle sales. - Source: Diesel Technology Forum

Diesel accounted for 44.3% of all third-quarter 2020 Alternative-Fuel Vehicle sales. 

Source: Diesel Technology Forum

Baum noted that the trends aren’t new, "but ones that have been occurring for nearly a decade as Americans’ vehicle needs have shifted toward sport utility vehicles in addition to the long-standing top-position of full-size pickup trucks." 

What is new? According to Baum it's the growing number of more fuel-efficient offerings where for car and truck buyers than ever before, ranging from battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, full hybrid and even hydrogen fuel cell options. 

“In the vehicle segments more Americans prefer, more diesel options are a win-win. When it comes to the vehicle types more American buyers prefer, diesel is a fuel-efficient choice that delivers no compromises in fuel efficiency, vehicle utility, or performance. With readily available fuel at more than two-thirds of all stations, highway ratings of as much as 33 mpg along with driving ranges that can exceed 500 miles on a single tank, there will be no range anxiety for diesel vehicle owners," Baum added. 

Diesel was a very popular option among third-quarter 2020 pickup truck and van sales.

Diesel was a very popular option among third-quarter 2020 pickup truck and van sales. 

“The new generation of diesel engine options are the quietest most powerful and fuel efficient we have ever seen, with near zero emissions as well, making them good choices for both the pocketbook and the planet. There are 16 diesel options available in full-mid, full-size, and heavy-duty pickup truck segments. This year for the first time, there are three diesel engine options in full size pickup trucks from leading manufacturers General Motors (Silverado 1500), Ram Trucks (1500 EcoDiesel), and Ford (F-150) as well as the exciting new addition of the Jeep Gladiator. This is in addition to heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 series for all manufacturers including long-time diesel engine offerings, and the Cummins diesel in the Ram heavy-duty trucks," Baum concluded. 

Consider that if every full-size pickup sold in the U.S. was equipped with an advanced diesel engine, the U.S. could save roughly 500 million gallons of fuel per year, equivalent to 15 percent of the entire car market switching to a battery-electric option, helping to contribute to climate and energy policy goals according to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum.

"When compared to comparably equipped gasoline models, these diesel engine options in pickups and larger SUVs can save quite a bit of fuel, particularly for those putting on higher annual miles and if regularly using the vehicles for towing.  Beyond the fuel efficiency advantage of diesel over gasoline comes the opportunity to use blends of low-carbon renewable biodiesel fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions,” noted Schaeffer.  “While predicting the future is nearly impossible, if fuel prices remain stable, economic recovery continues, we would expect that sales of pickups and larger SUVs with diesel engine options are likely to increase as consumers seek more fuel efficiency, power and performance for the long haul of vehicle ownership."

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