Diesel has had another image challenge to overcome recently as Volkswagen admitted to installing emissions “cheat devices” on its diesel models. Despite the potential tarnish the scandal could bring to the diesel industry’s reputation, early reports suggest that U.S. consumer confidence in diesel vehicles remains largely unchanged. An October NACS study reports that 73% of respondents indicated their views were “about the same as before” and 6% said their view was “much more negative towards diesel vehicles.”
But make no mistake, the final chapter of the diesel story isn’t yet written as counteractive marketing influences, such as aggressive sales promotions, haven’t demonstrated their full impact. Numerous consumer surveys suggest that price is a leading factor in buyer behavior. Volkswagen offers a surprising illustration of this: despite the emissions cheating scandal, demand for gasoline-powered Volkswagen models surged in October as consumers were greeted with heavy sales incentives.
Fuel retailers would be wise to keep an eye on sales of diesel cars in the next six months as it may be an indication of the long-term impact of the emissions scandal.