Will diesel power see growth?

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I’ve been reading lately about the increasing speculation that high gasoline prices, coupled with a growing recognition that more ethanol production will breed other problems (see Dealer Outlook from August 23, 2007), will lead to a surge in diesel power in our nation.

As an example, Mercedes has said it will introduce “clean” diesel sedans and SUV’s in anticipation that American drivers will begin to mirror the acceptance by Europeans of diesel powered cars. Today, less than 4 percent of American vehicles are diesel-powered and those are mostly light trucks. That contrasts with the fact that more than 50 percent of the cars sold in Europe are diesel.

Sure, it’s true right now that this speculation focuses exclusively on diesel cars and SUV’s, not marine power. But it raises an interesting possibility that diesel power may soon impact boating in at least two ways.

First, diesel power may be the way SUV’s and light trucks could survive the misguided Congressional push to significantly increase CAFÉ standards. After all, there is “a growing sense within the auto and oil industries that increasing numbers of U.S. cars and light trucks will run on diesel, because they get better fuel economy than those using gasoline," said a recent Wall Street Journal article. So, while we as an industry have a legitimate fear that increased CAFÉ standards will wipe out vehicles that can safely tow our boats, perhaps the diesel engine will be the equalizer.

Second, it raises an interesting possibility that consumer demand will increase for diesel engines in boats now only offered with gas power as a natural extension of the growth and recognition of the better mileage offered by diesel-powered cars. While diesel didn’t previously have any success in the small boat market, past results are not an indicator of future performance, as they say. It’s certainly an interesting possibility.

That’s how I see it, how about you?

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