LONDON – Diesel-powered new-car sales in the U.K. are set to nearly halve in the wake of emissions worries and the burgeoning choice in alternatively fueled vehicles.
These are the findings of new consumer research suggesting that, while diesels currently make up about 40% of cars on U.K. roads, just 23% of motorists plan to make their next purchase a diesel.
More than 1,000 motorists were polled by analysts Simpson Carpenter on behalf of Autocar magazine, among whom 38% percent were diesel owners, 60% gasoline owners and 17% owned a hybrid or electric vehicle.
Results show gasoline will retain its dominance, with 60% of buyers predicted to stick with the fuel, while more than one-sixth are ready to swap from a diesel to a hybrid or electric car for their next purchase.
The survey also highlighted motorists’ concerns over emissions and pollution in the wake of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal and rising penalties for older diesels entering major cities. Of current diesel owners surveyed, more than half plan to defect to a gasoline or a hybrid/electric vehicle – in contrast with 78% of gasoline owners saying their next car also would be gasoline-powered.
A greater acceptance of alternative-fueled cars also is noted, with 17% of buyers indicating their next car will be hybrid or electric and 22% of diesel owners suggesting they will switch to an EV.
These findings already are supported by figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders which show U.K. diesel registrations in May fell 20% year-on-year. A total of 81,489 diesels were registered in the month, compared with more than 101,000 in May 2016.
Consumers’ overwhelming reasons given for not buying a diesel were concerns over pollution and emissions, with 73% saying that would put them off. Uncertainty over what a diesel car might be worth in the future was the second-biggest issue, with 41% of those surveyed expressing concern about residual values.
Perception of diesel as a fuel that’s detrimental to air quality also has made it into public consciousness.
While consumers viewed diesels as producing more nitrogen oxides and particulates versus gasoline (63% to 19%), perception also played a part, with most viewing diesel as more harmful to the environment than gasoline (65% to 17%) and as emitting the most carbon dioxide (54% to 28%), despite diesel having played a major role in reducing vehicle CO2 emissions since 2000.
“These findings are a testament to the public battering diesel has taken over the last few years,” Autocar editor Mark Tisshaw says. “We’ve already seen figures showing a diesel sales slowdown, but what is clear from this survey is that there will be a major shift towards petrol, hybrid and electric cars.
“While some vilification of diesel is justified, there is a major gulf between the perception and the reality. It is concerning that the majority of buyers now believe diesel is a wholly dirty fuel.”