The Real Driving Emission (RDE) test is the first substantive regulatory change specifically designed to clean up diesels and put an end to manipulating, legally or otherwise, emissions numbers since the Volkswagen Group’s diesel-cheating scandal erupted more than three years ago. So far, the RDE test and classification was only mandatory for entirely new vehicle types, giving automakers two years to prepare their diesel fleets.
“We do see some stabilization [of the diesel decline] in Germany, especially with the new Euro 6d-temp compliant engines,” BMW brand sales chief Pieter Nota told Automotive News Europe.
While the VW scandal caused some people to think twice about purchasing another diesel, plunging sales of the powertrain were sparked more by European municipalities threatening bans to meet mandatory EU air pollution targets. Other factors have contributed to the drop, such as a decline in diesel used-car prices that spooked private customers and fiscal policies that stripped diesel cars of their beneficial tax treatment.
New after-treatment systems such as selective catalytic reduction will drive up the already comparatively high cost of a diesel model. But the industry has coped with issues like this in the past. “There were similar predictions years ago that Euro 4 or Euro 5 would add so much cost to the vehicle that it would kill the diesel,” LMC’s Bedwell said.
The shift to Euro 6d-temp is expected to bolster consumer confidence for vehicles such as the BMW 520d full-size sedan or Mazda CX-5 SUV. “Customer orders are coming back for our larger products that comply with new EU emissions standards,” Mazda Europe President Jeff Guyton told ANE. “We see a fairly dramatic change from the old regulation to the new.”
That change was not seen during the first nine months of 2018 as registrations of new diesel models fell 17 percent to 4.32 million cars in Europe. The downturn in the UK worsened after the government raised vehicle excise duties on diesels last April to pay for air quality improvement measures. LMC’s Bedwell estimates diesel sales will drop by 350,000 in Western Europe this year following a 1-million-unit decline in 2018.
Kia Europe Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera agreed that diesel demand will decline further in 2019. “In the end, the European share will stabilize at about 30 percent,” he told ANE. Some executives are even less optimistic. Volkswagen fears little can be done in the short term to change perceptions.
“Unfortunately, there is a deep uncertainty surrounding the diesel, regardless of what kind of technology is in the car or what can be factually proved,” VW brand sales and marketing chief Juergen Stackmann told ANE. “As long as more and more cities find themselves in the dilemma of introducing a driving ban, I don’t see an improvement.”