Sales of new diesel cars have been falling in Europe's key markets as customers react to a backlash against the powertrain following Volkswagen Group's emissions-cheating scandal. Automotive News Europe correspondents provided snapshots of how diesel is doing across the region.
Germany diesel snapshot
After peaking at 48.1 percent of the market in 2012, diesel's penetration rate in Germany has dropped by about half a percentage point annually. It was 45.8 percent last year. That gradual decline abruptly changed in March. That's when the diesel share fell to about 40 percent following a national debate over driving bans in major cities such as Stuttgart, the home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche as well as Germany's most polluted when it comes to diesel fumes.
A hastily arranged forum that came to be known as the Diesel Summit was held at the beginning of August in Berlin featuring cabinet ministers and senior auto executives to see whether a solution could be found to ensure Euro 5 diesels, which were sold until September 2015, would escape any potential bans. The quick and affordable software solution, however, has failed to restore any faith. The debate continues over a more expensive retrofit that could potentially cost customers at least 1,500 euros, if not much more. As a result, the diesel share in August dropped below 38 percent for the first time this decade for that month. Meanwhile, gasoline-powered cars accounted for 58 percent of August sales, up from less than 53 percent in the same month last year. Vehicles with alternative drivetrains continue to double or even triple in volume but from a very low base.
UK diesel snapshot
Diesel sales have been plummeting in the UK since the government announced this summer it would ban sales of conventional diesel and gasoline cars by 2040. Diesel sales sank 21 percent in August, dropping the fuel's share below 40 percent as customers turned toward gasoline and hybrid models, according to data from industry association SMMT.
The decline was faster than the overall market drop of 6.4 percent for August. Diesel sales through eight months are down 11 percent, while sales of electric and hybrid cars rose 33 percent to take a 4.4 percent share.
The clampdown on diesels is being led from London, where Mayor Sadiq Khan will impose a charge on cars rated Euro 3 or below to enter the central zone starting this month. That will be extended to diesels rated Euro 5 or below by 2020, with plans to expand the zone by 2025.
Jaguar Land Rover is concerned that the government's stance on diesel, once championed as a low carbon dioxide alternative to gasoline, will make it harder for the automaker to meet tough European CO2 targets that take effect in 2021. Iain Grey, JLR's senior manager for powertrain, said: "Diesels are up to 20 percent better on CO2. If we lose that benefit the target will be very difficult to achieve."
France diesel snapshot
Diesel's share in France fell below 50 percent this year for the first time since 2000, after reaching a record penetration level of 73 percent in 2012. Multiple factors have caused the shift, including tightening pollution regulations, cleaner gasoline engines, the emergence of electric and hybrid powertrains, and higher taxation of diesel fuel, industry association CCFA said.
Through August, 664,574 new diesel cars were registered in France, representing 47.8 percent of the market, the CCFA said. Gasoline engine sales were nearly identical, at 657,925, or 47.3 percent. During the same period last year, diesel was nearly 10 percentage points ahead of gasoline, 52.7 percent to 43.4 percent. At the same time, hybrid and full-electric vehicles have grown to 5 percent of sales.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said she wants to ban all diesels from the French capital -- the country's wealthiest and most populous region -- by 2025. "France has long given priority to diesel and supported this industry as if it were the only option possible," Hidalgo said last December.