Audi pushing Diesel to the USA, starting with the basics: perception management

Diesel - no longer a dirty wordEuropean car brands are pushing Diesel to the US market. Audi is however taking a very active role.  Already at the New York International auto show in February I saw diesel versions of some of the popular models. From there it continued with a campaign site on and last weekend I saw at night an Audi Q7 TDI parked in the hot New York meatpacking district. The car had “TDI” stickers all over so it was clearly there to spark interest.

The whole “bringing Diesel to America” exercise is very interesting as it requires US citizens to change their perception of Diesel to succeed. Here is how Audi is doing it.

Step 1: fight the negative perception of Diesel by focussing on:

  1. Take away the no power perception: “I’ve always thought that diesels were sluggish and slow” (using a TDI at LeMans was a really cool!)
  2. Take away the being dirty perception: “I thought diesel engines were noisy and dirty

Step 2: add a whole bunch of feel good messages focussing on the environment and social responsibility:

  1. “I wish there was an easy way to make better use of our resources” (example)
  2. “I wish we had more stability when it came to the cost and supply of fuel”
  3. “I’m ready to do my part to reduce global warming”
  4. “I hope the U.S. can begin to move towards a more sustainable future”

Will it work? I think so. It has been in the works for some time. In 2006  American refiners were for the first time pumping “clean diesel”. Now 3 years later we see the first serious cars hitting the market. I would give it still another three to five years for the infrastructure to build up but after that Americans will drive like Europeans: in the premium/ high end segment on clean diesel.

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