Death knell for diesel: Just 1 in 20 new car buyers are set to order one


Demand for new diesel cars is almost fading out completely with signs of a death knell for the out-of-favour fuel type, according to a new study.

A poll of almost 1,000 motorists currently in the process of ordering a new car found that only 5 per cent are looking to buy one with a diesel engine.

What Car? says the fuel type has fallen dramatically out of favour, due to the combination of a ‘dirty’ stigma brought on by the Dieselgate scandal and soaring demand for electric cars – and manufacturers are responding by culling diesel options from their model ranges.

The findings from the study have been published in the same week that average UK fuel prices rose to new record highs, with diesel costing over £1.80 a litre.

Death knell for diesel: Just 5% of new car buyers placing orders for vehicles in the last week said they are purchasing a model with a diesel engine. Dieselgate and EV shift is driving decline in demand

Death knell for diesel: Just 5% of new car buyers placing orders for vehicles in the last week said they are purchasing a model with a diesel engine. Dieselgate and EV shift is driving decline in demand

As part of its weekly industry research, the motoring consumer title asked 910 in-market buyers – those actively looking to place an order – their views on diesel cars and whether they think they will be buying an oil burner in the future.

Just one in 20 said they are looking at a new, factory-order diesel car and a fifth (21 per cent) of used buyers are considering purchasing one.

In total, 90 per cent of all car buyers surveyed are considering fuel types other than a diesel, with two thirds (66 per cent) of these drivers saying they are confident they will never buy a diesel car ever again.

The Dieselgate emissions scandal, which came to light in September 2015, has had an impact on motorists’ views on diesels with almost two fifths (39 per cent) who are not considering an oil burner saying it has changed their opinion on the fuel type. 

A third (34 per cent) said they are avoiding diesels because they don’t believe it is environmentally friendly. 

Some 21 per cent said a diesel doesn’t suit their need, which could be in response to low emission zones across the UK, including London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, which penalise diesel vehicles more so than petrols. 

Oxford has also introduced the nation’s first Zero Emission Zone as part of a trial this year before it could extend it to cover all of the city centre.

Another 18 per cent told What Car? that other fuel types are now cheaper to run and therefore more attractive to them.

Official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows the shift in demand for diesel compared to battery electric vehicles. MHEV (Mild-Hybrid Electric Vehicle) diesels have been used in our comparison

Official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows the shift in demand for diesel compared to battery electric vehicles. MHEV (Mild-Hybrid Electric Vehicle) diesels have been used in our comparison

The research comes just a week after April new car registration figures showed that fully electric vehicles are significantly outselling diesels this year.

New diesel registrations for the first four months of 2022 accounted for 55,514 cars, while 77,064 new fully electric vehicles have been sold in the same period. 

In comparison, 104,168 diesels had been sold by the end of the fourth month in 2021, while battery electric vehicle registrations stood at 40,931 by the end of April that year. 

Looking further back to 2015 – the year the Volkswagen emission-cheating scandal hit headlines – almost half (48.5 per cent) of the UK’s new car market was represented by diesel.

A third of car buyers responding to the What Car? poll said they are avoiding diesels because they don't believe it is environmentally friendly, while a fifth said they don't suit their needs

A third of car buyers responding to the What Car? poll said they are avoiding diesels because they don’t believe it is environmentally friendly, while a fifth said they don’t suit their needs

Steve Huntingford, editor, What Car?, said manufacturers have already reacted to the fall in demand and are culling diesel engines from their ranges.  

‘Diesel’s rapid decline in sales comes as manufacturers continue to offer fewer models to new car buyers,’ he explained.

‘Vauxhall was the latest manufacturer to drop the diesel option on its best-selling Corsa, with the car now available in petrol or fully electric powertrains only.

‘As the new diesel car parc declines, this will eventually impact the used market for diesel cars – which are also impacted by the growing number of low emissions zones and other air quality initiatives.’

For the minority of car buyers who said they are going to buy a diesel as their next vehicle, half are doing so because they believe diesels are economical to run and another quarter (26 per cent) said they prefer how they drive, according to the poll.

However, 28 per cent of those buying a diesel told What Car? they suspect this next diesel will be their last and they’ll move to other vehicle types after, while 48 per cent said they would continue buying diesels in the future.

The news comes as the UK average for a litre of both petrol and diesel hit new record highs this week, with diesel soaring to 180.88p and petrol rising to 167.65p.

The new records come just 55 days after the Chancellor cut duty by 5p per litre to ease accelerating prices.

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