Quality and Reputation Fuel Diesel Heater DominanceOctober 27, 2023

Diesel heaters, known for their efficiency and reliability, have long been an integral component in a variety of applications ranging from motor vehicles to campers to boats, and even to static installations like cabins and workshops. These heaters utilize diesel fuel to produce heat, making them an ideal choice in environments where electricity might not be readily available or in situations demanding a compact and independent heating solution. Predominantly, it was the German companies Webasto and Eberspächer that spearheaded these innovations in the 1970s and 80s, protected by robust patent rights that ensured their technologies remained exclusive.

For instance, Webasto held U.S. Patent Nos. 3,779,229 (“Heater for vehicles”), 3,989,029 (“Liquid fuel burning heater for vehicles”), 4,216,759 (“Auxiliary heater for vehicles”), 4,471,754 (“Vehicle heater”), 4,519,375 (“Hot-air heater”), and 4,637,371 (“Fuel-operated heating system, particularly an auxiliary heater for a vehicle”) while Eberspächer held U.S. Patent No. 3,894,526 (“Space heater construction particularly for mobile installations”).

Lengthwise section of a vehicle heater from Webasto’s U.S. Patent No. 4,471,754.

However, the world of patents operates on a timer, and every patent comes with an expiration date. Once that date is reached, the protected technology becomes fair game for any manufacturer to reproduce and sell. As the patents on the original German diesel heaters expired, Chinese manufacturers saw an opportunity. Taking advantage of the expired patents, they began to produce diesel heaters that closely mirrored the original designs but with a much smaller price tag. Today, the market is flooded with various brands and models of Chinese diesel heaters, which can be purchased from online retailers for as little as one-tenth the price of their German manufactured counterparts.

 A Chinese manufactured diesel heater installed in a camper.

It’s intriguing to observe that even in the face of steep competition from more affordable Chinese alternatives, the prices of the original German diesel heaters remain relatively high. This phenomenon can largely be attributed to the strong brand recognition and the perceived quality difference associated with the German manufacturers. Consumers, over the years, have built a trust in the consistency, durability, and reliability of products from companies like Webasto and Eberspächer. This trust, coupled with the long-standing reputation for excellence, allows these brands to command a premium price. The scenario underscores the power of brand loyalty and the lasting impact of quality on consumer perception, which in some cases, can be even more potent than patent protection in maintaining market dominance.

Brian D. Keppler, Ph.D. is a registered Patent Agent in the MVS Biotechnology & Chemical Practice Group. To learn more, visit our MVS website, or contact Brian directly via email.

← Return to Filewrapper

Stay in Touch

Receive the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Sign Up