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Diesel opportunity lost

The good oil: Diesel is in more demand than ever before.

Research shows local car-makers stand to lose massive sales without a diesel

General News logo31 Aug 2007

AUSTRALIAN car manufacturers could stand to lose almost 40 per cent of their large-car sales by failing to offer a diesel engine option, following results from a new Roy Morgan Research survey that shows a record number of owners seriously considering the alternative fuel.

The Roy Morgan survey reveals that in June this year, a whopping 38.2 per cent of Australian large-car customers said they would seriously consider a diesel model when purchasing a new car. This is up from 35.7 per cent recorded last September.

If each of those customers went ahead and purchased diesel models, GoAuto estimates that Ford, Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi could stand to lose more than 100,000 sales combined a year.

None of the big four have approved plans for diesel variants of their large cars.

The Roy Morgan survey also found 48.3 per cent of all new-car customers would seriously consider diesel. SUV buyers are the most likely to opt for a diesel, with 63 per cent stating they would seriously consider it.

The sole Australian-built SUV is Ford’s Territory, which is currently only available with a petrol powerplant. That is set to change, however, with GoAuto having learnt that Ford Australia has approved a diesel Territory plan. The company has not yet officially announced the move or stated when the model will go on sale.

80 center imageLeft: Ford Focus diesel, Holden Captiva diesel.

The diesel Territory is likely to be the only Australian-made vehicle with a diesel engine until the next-generation Focus is produced from 2011, with both diesel and petrol engines, at Ford’s Campbellfield plant in Victoria.

Ford, which has just launched an imported diesel-powered Focus and will introduce a diesel Mondeo in October, said again this week that it had no plan for a diesel Falcon at this stage. However, Ford insiders have revealed to GoAuto that the diesel Focus and Mondeo models would test customer demand for diesel passenger cars.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman has commented that packaging the new petrol V6 engine in the Falcon from 2010 would mean it would be easy to fit other V6 engine configurations, including a diesel.

Toyota and Mitsubishi have stated that they have no plans for diesel variants of the current-generation Aurion or 380 large cars respectively.

GM Holden engineering director Tony Hyde told GoAuto last week that he would like a diesel-powered Commodore, but still needed to find the right engine. “We just have to get ourselves a diesel that makes some sort of economic sense, or makes some sort of strategic sense,” he said.

Even then, the diesel business case might not stack up, Mr Hyde said. “There are (issues) around – how do Australians feel about diesel? What does the price at the pump do psychologically?” He said Holden was yet to determine the development costs of a diesel Commodore, and what effect that would have on the price of the car.

Holden spokesman John Lindsay said 30 per cent of Captiva SUVs sold in Australia were diesel. He said part of the success of that diesel model was that it cost only $1000 more than the petrol model.

He said the price premium for most diesels was higher and that meant many of the Roy Morgan survey respondents might be put off when they reached the showroom.

“They are interesting statistics, but I think there is a follow-up question that needs to be asked – how much are they prepared to pay for it?”

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