Some of you might have had the chance to see the webcast, while others… well you were probably at work since it was in the middle of the day. For those of you who missed it, or were working for the man, I’ll post video on the whole thing once I get it in. There were great presentations from all of the panel members, including one from BMW explaining how today’s diesel works. Very simple explanation, and easily understood.
All in all there were good questions asked that had good answers in return, except for two that I found sounded a little combative under the surface.
The first one was from a fella from the Air Resources Board who asked the question about the numbers of diesel powered vehicles sold within the recent months. He didn’t really want percentages or an answer prepared by the marketing department. He wanted hard numbers, and it seemed if the numbers didn’t meet his expectation then modern diesel was a total flop today and in the future. That’s kind of difficult to answer or think about really when the first real wave of current diesel powered passenger cars just arrived around eight months ago (give or take). Add that to the fact that they were introduced at the same time that the economy started swirling down the tubes and you really don’t have favorable factors. Does that mean it’s over? Nah… only that it’s getting started. Come on, will ya? What do you think he’d say if he was told that the numbers matched those of the Prius? I imagine that his world would come to an end.
Ok, maybe I was just being a little defensive about the above mentioned question. Perhaps I took it a little wrong, but the next one… you couldn’t mistake the “snarkiness” of it. It was actually from the web and from a nationally recognized vehicle authority magazine. The question was “if diesel is so good then why have companies like Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai and the domestic brands all shelved their plans for diesel vehicles?” Funny thing is that two of the ten best engines for the year according to Wards Automotive were diesels. Most of America still doesn’t know that diesel is totally different than it was just a few years ago. Diesel is not smoky, slow and noisy anymore, yet that is what the majority of the public thinks. To me it’s kind of like you got dumped by a red head and now you think all red headed women are just as bad, so you avoid them at all costs. How do you change the mindset? There’s one catalyst: money. Many auto companies are trying to restructure and reorganize in today’s dismal financial climate, so introducing diesels is now set on pause as they all struggle to make a profit and survive. It takes money to train, set up the sales force, parts distribution, etc. Combine that with the fact that each of them would need to promote a costly ad campaign to change minds and you have a “wait and see” kind of attitude. This is really unfortunate because not only do they all have wonderful diesel products that they all sell overseas, but the German auto companies are left holding the bag right now. Those companies are continuing to introduce new diesel product into their dealership network here, and are making it fairly affordable. VW has the Jetta, which when topped out with options goes for around $24,500. Not too bad, and they are setting to release diesel versions of their other popular cars. So as for the question… kind of a blunder coming from an automotive magazine. They should have a better vision of the domestic automotive marketplace than most of the people in the room. Maybe they’re afraid of red heads, too? Who knows?
Anyways, a good meeting after all was said and done. It was also the best one of the day. More to come later as I get my hands on the panel’s presentations.