Diesel and hybrid cars sales increase as gasoline prices climb

Article by Christian A., on April 26, 2012

Sales of diesel and hybrid cars have had a dramatic increase as gasoline prices climb. Data gathered by hyrbidcars.com and Baum and Associates show that diesel sales have grown by 35% in the first quarter of 2012, with 28,260 units sold. Hybrid sales increased by 11.4% in January, 55.4% in February, and 39.6% in March for a total of 106,207 hybrids sold. For the same period, gasoline prices increased by 10% in January (year over year), an increase of 13% in February, and 8% in March. There is definitely a general correlation if the three graphs were compared to each other.

However, the increase in gasoline prices isn’t the only reason for the sales surge. Another factor is that there are many more diesel and hybrid cars offered in 2012 than there were in 2011. Notably, there are many more to arrive in 2013. Audi revealed that it will sell diesel versions of the A6, the A8 and the Q5 SUV in the U.S. in 2013.

In addition, the A4 diesel sedan may be released in 2013 or 2014. Chrysler is set to present a diesel Grand Cherokee in the next few years, together with a Dakota pickup and maybe other Jeep models. Ford will soon offer a diesel-powered, full-size Transit. General Motors announced that the Cadillac ATS will be available with a diesel and Mazda would be the first Asian producer to offer a diesel to the U.S. market. Mercedes-Benz has been offering its Bluetec line for sometime and Volkswagen will bring the Beetle to its diesel lineup.

In creating the Cadillac ATS, the main goal was to make sure that it would become the lightest model of its class. This was the same philosophy that guided the development of this vehicle. However, to the credit of the brand, it was performance in a more nuanced manner and this resulted in delivering a driving experience that is clearly more refined.

To make sure that the model would indeed be light, there was a need to optimize the mass and this was made possible by following a four-pronged principle. The first was that Cadillac had to strictly follow the original architectural objectives that were set. The second was that the entire load management of this model had to be measured. Meanwhile the third principle involved benchmarking any of the parts to determine lighter solutions.

Finally, there was the practice of making sure that the mass of each of the parts had to be weighed versus each phase of the development. According to Masch, the approach applied in developing the ATS was to count each and every gram. The brand not only minimized them when possible, he added, but also made use of them where they believed they would be needed.

This is why in making the ATS, Cadillac made use of natural fiber for the trim panels of the door, magnesium for the brackets of the engine mount, and aluminum for its hood, to name a few. All of these were done to ensure that the overall mass was low and at the time displayed the systematic method that was implemented in making sure that each gram that was placed in this model was indeed evaluated.

However, just because the objective was to make a lightweight car did not mean that the brand compromised on other features. Thus when the brand believed that a certain component was not only advantageous but also important to deliver on that driving experience, it was included nevertheless. Take for example the use of cast iron differential instead of fitting a version made of aluminum.

While the lighter option would have contributed to the lighter weight, the former could actually help enhance fuel economy. Another example is the use of mostly steel for the suspension in the rear. Rather than find alternative materials to lower the weight, the brand instead put attention on the load management of this suspension and the straight links.

The result was that it acted as a counterweight to the front section where both the engine and transmission were placed. Not only did this approach help save on weight but it guaranteed that the ATS would have a weight balance of an almost perfect 50-50. Further, it also helped lower both the vibration and the noise. Cadillac did the same as well for the wheels wherein the addition of an extra structural aluminum resulted in the vibration being lowered even more.

Topics: diesel, hybrid

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