Manufacturers have rounded on the Government, accusing it of stifling sales of diesel cars through unnecessary legislation and fuel taxation.
But despite high diesel taxes, sales are up year-to-date by 18% on 2000, representing a 15% share of the car market. Citroen, which has a strong tradition in diesel engines on mainland Europe, blasted ministers for placing a “ridiculous penalty” on the fuel in terms of higher taxation.
A spokesman said: “The UK has lagged behind the mainland – last year diesel took 14% of the market – but in the first two months of the year, it has enjoyed its biggest growth in six years. This rise has been fuelled by greater awareness by fleets that diesel is clean and efficient, with low CO2 emissions.”
Ford is also predicting a sales surge in diesel cars. It believes the diesel share of the UK market will rise to at least 30% over the next four years.
Ian McAllister, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, said: “Clearly, diesels are becoming an increasingly important segment of the UK motor industry and we intend to lead the way with cutting edge diesel technology.”
The growth will be fuelled by a number of factors including changes to company car taxation based on CO2 emissions and an awareness of the greater fuel economy.
But the biggest attraction is the huge improvement in refinement and driveability.
Phil Lake, Ford of Europe chief engineer for the diesel business unit, said: “Quite honestly this is aerospace technology. The second generation common rail is a sophisticated device.”
Ford will be launching a common rail system, called TDCi, on the Focus from mid-summer. Mondeo will get the engine later in the year.
It will be available on Ghia trim models and is likely to fetch £500 over the existing TDDI (turbodiesel direct injection) models.