2017 was an uncertain year for the UK motor trade, new car sales fell for the first time since 2011, dropping by 5.7%, and this trend is predicted to continue in 2018. The most dramatic drop in sales was for diesel cars, although sales of petrol and electric and hybrid vehicles increased in 2017, the fall in diesel sales was significant enough to drag overall figures down.
Why have diesel cars lost their appeal?
There are many factors in play, including the overall economic climate which has discouraged spending on brand new cars. However, many people in the motor trade are blaming new government policies and the confusion surrounding them for the slump in diesel sales. When diesel cars were introduced they were an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to petrol, however, in recent years the price of diesel fuel at the pump has risen to equal, or even exceed the cost of petrol.
Diesel fumes have also been blamed for poor air quality and smog, especially in urban areas. In 2017, the UK government announced plans to remove all diesel vehicles from the road by the year 2040. A higher bracket of the London congestion charge will apply to diesel vehicles, and it is likely that diesel bans will be introduced in major cities throughout the UK. Similar measures are in place in several European cities and these countries have also seen diesel sales fall. Most of these changes are designed to discourage early diesel models with less efficient more polluting engines, however, in many areas, such as with the price of fuel, drivers of new and used cars face the same penalties even though the motor industry states that modern diesel engines are far less polluting than older models.
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The future of diesel vehicles is uncertain, and many owners find the government’s stance unclear or confusing, and there is widespread belief diesel cars will incur higher levels of road tax in the future. It’s no surprise many drivers looking for lower running costs and a more environmentally friendly ride, as well as the benefits of a cheaper insurance policy, lower road tax, plus exemption from congestion and parking charges, are turning to electric or hybrid vehicles rather than diesel cars.
Sales of diesel fleet vehicles dropped less sharply than those of private vehicles, as diesel remains an economically and ecologically sound choice for the sort of high mileage journeys undertaken by fleet vehicles, and it is hoped the government will take this into consideration. Diesel sales in January 2018 were 25% lower than in the previous January, and researchers at Birmingham’s Aston University have predicted a ‘double-digit slump in percentage terms’ over the next year.