Editor's comment

Why are diesel sales falling?

Published:  26 January, 2016

Was the emissions scandal a nail in the coffin for the diesel engine? With Renault now having the finger of suspicion pointed at them the question has been raised again. Yet it could simply be down to the fact that the public are falling out of love with the fuel and have been doing so before cheat devices were discovered.

The future of diesel has been under question for a little while. It was once the cheaper alternative to petrol, however the fuel became more expensive at the pump and then VMs started producing smaller, more efficient turbo-based petrol engines that could almost match diesel in their economy, while producing fewer greenhouse gases. Regulations have tightened too with Euro 5 rules requiring the use of a DPF, something many drivers are struggling with when using their cars on short distances.

The 2015 SMMT figures also revealed that market share of diesel and petrol was equal with a 48% market share. It was almost lost in the report that while 2015 was a record year with sales of vehicles reaching over 2.6 million units; diesel only achieved a 3% rise, while petrol sales grew by 8.4%. In 2014, diesel had a share of 49.8% with sales of 1,240,287 vehicles while petrol was at 48.8% with sales of 1,184,409, a difference of 56,078. This establishes diesel as the king when it comes to engine choice in 2014. The fuel also outsold petrol in 2013, 2012 and 2011. However in 2015, petrol vehicles outsold diesel by 6,986 units, a modest amount but enough to ensure the market share was even.

I don’t suggest that the emissions scandal had an effect on the overall sales of diesels, in fact since petrol outsold diesel in September (when new registrations were released and a trend that occurred in 2014), diesel sales were higher in October, November and December. Does this therefore mean that the public is falling out of love with diesel? If they are, it may not be due to emissions but just better technology elsewhere. AFV sales have risen strongly and with more efficient petrol engines, the fuel may well be feeling the heat for a while to come.

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