Diesel vehicle sales fall amidst fear of future bans

Diesel-powered vehicles have long been a staple of the European car buying public, though now diesels face an increasingly uphill battle in the face of looming driving bans across Europe, according to a report by Automotive News. Due to their fuel efficiency advantage over petrol engines, diesels are key to most automakers’ CO2 reduction strategies.

However, the growing anti-diesel circumstances will make it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to meet the EU-mandated fleet CO2 target of 95 g/km, and failing to adhere will incur steep fines. Stuttgart is considering a ban on diesels as young as three years old from entering city limits on certain days from next year, while Munich could be next to follow with a form of ban.

Last year, the respective mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City laid out plans to outlaw diesel cars in those cities by 2025, while just before that, up to 13 European and North American governments announced that they plan to ban all petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2050.

Diesel vehicle sales fall amidst fear of future bans

Additionally, London will by October impose an additional £10 “toxicity charge” upon pre-Euro 4 diesels for entering the city. The news had an immediate effect, with diesels making up just 40% of vehicle sales in March, down from 45.8% last year and a peak of 48.1% in 2012, according to the report. Sales of diesel vehicles fell to 46% of the European market in the first three months of 2017 from 50% in 2016 according to data from JATO Dynamics, the report said.

Among German luxury brands, BMW has the highest share of diesels in Europe, while more than 80% of Volvos are diesel and Land Rover is vastly represented by diesel models, according to JATO Dynamics. Some experts are of the opinion that premium brands with a diesel emphasis have less to worry about as they also have strong fleet sales in Europe.

Fleet customers typically drive their cars for two to three years before returning them, compared to private buyers who will take ownership of their vehicles for a longer duration, meaning that the latter will think harder and be more cautious before committing to a diesel which may be banned in the coming years, the report said.

Diesel vehicle sales fall amidst fear of future bans

One marque which could possibly be hit harder than most is Peugeot, with nearly half of its sales coming from diesel models in the first three months of this year, which the report says was higher than any of the Volkswagen Group’s brands.

Tobias Ulbrich, a specialist in transportation law with the German firm Rogert & Ulbrich in Dusseldorf, argues that automakers have brought the ban upon themselves with ‘scandalous behaviour’, and he represents around 1,700 owners of VW vehicles who are suing the Wolfsburg-based automaker for damages, claiming their VW diesels have lost resale value due to the scandal and resulting recall.

“In an environment where bans are an immediate threat,those people that regularly drive in the major metropolitan areas are not going to purchase a diesel under any circumstance — no matter how clean manufacturers claim these cars allegedly are,” Ulbrich said, adding that the driving bans are a result of the manufacturers’ failure to meet NOx emissions limits, thus hurting the perception of diesel vehicles.