Rising U.S. demand for diesel-powered cars and trucks could be a windfall for turbocharger suppliers such as Honeywell Inc., BorgWarner and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
By 2020, diesel-powered light vehicles are expected to account for 7 percent of total U.S. light-vehicle sales, up from 3 percent this year, says the Diesel Technology Forum, a trade group. Because virtually every diesel is turbocharged, that's good news for turbo suppliers.
It's a big reason why Honeywell expects turbocharged vehicles to account for 37 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales in 2020, up from 19 percent this year.
"The wild card is whether the diesel segment will grow faster than we expect," said Tony Schultz, vice president of Honeywell's commercial vehicle operations in Japan, Korea and North America.
With gasoline prices down and the U.S. model mix unlikely to change much in the near future, automakers are looking for ways to improve their corporate average fuel economy numbers. "One way to improve fuel economy is to introduce diesels," said Schultz, an attendee at the seminars. "It's a potential needle mover for automakers to add diesels to their portfolio.
Traditionally, diesels in the U.S. were largely restricted to heavy-duty pickups. But now, automakers are installing them in lighter trucks and some cars. In the U.S., Honeywell supplies turbos for the diesel-powered Ford F-250, Ram pickup, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet Cruze and the soon-to-be introduced diesel Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.
Honeywell has a big presence in Europe, where diesel sales dominate the light-vehicle market. If diesels gain popularity in the United States, Honeywell is positioned to get much of that business, he said.
"We think there's a good appetite" for diesels, Schultz said. "We project that automakers will introduce new [diesel] models into those segments."