LONDON -- The UK's automotive industry body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, defended diesel cars, as the government prepares to announce proposals for improving air quality which could make it more expensive to use the most polluting vehicles.
The government is due to announce by April 24 plans to comply with European Union legislation to improve air quality and meet nitrogen dioxide limits following a ruling by the High Court late last year.
London's mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to crack down on polluting vehicles to make the city the greenest in the world, banning new diesel taxis starting 2018 and introducing a series of new charges on motorists. London's plan could be copied nationwide.
Diesel cars have been increasingly maligned since the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal began in 2015, while a study that year by researchers at King's College London found nearly 9,500 Londoners die prematurely a year as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution.
"Some recent reports have failed to differentiate between much cleaner cars and vehicles of the past," said SMMT CEO Mike Hawes.
Sales of diesel cars are down 1 percent so far this year in the UK, compared with a rise of 6 percent in the market as a whole. Demand for gasoline is up 12 percent, in a sign that buyers may be moving away from diesel.
Market share for diesel cars in the first quarter fell to 43.9 percent from 47.1 percent in 2016, while the share for gasoline cars grew to 52 percent from 49.6 percent, data from SMMT shows.
Several cities such as Paris, Stuttgart, Athens, Brussels and Madrid are trying to reduce pollution by proposing bans, fines and restrictions on diesel vehicles.