Dealers are being given a key role by car manufacturers in the campaign against the 'demonisation' of diesel.
This morning the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders launched a nationwide consumer campaign to raise awareness of the cost and environmental benefits low-emission engine technologies - in particular Euro 6 compliant engines - in order, chief executive Mike Hawes (pictured) said, to "set the record straight".
The campaign is in part due to YouGov research that showed 87% of UK adults said they were unaware of the latest Euro 6* vehicle emission technology, while 54% incorrectly blamed cars and commercial vehicles as the biggest cause of air pollution in the UK. It is, in fact, power stations, the biggest contributors of nitrogen oxide pollution.
It follows reports at the end of 2014 of Paris announcing a ban on diesel vehicles, followed by suggestions London would follow.
Islington Council will introduce a £96 annual surcharge on resident parking permits for drivers of diesel cars from April 1 to "protect residents from the health risks associated with diesel emissions", citing links to cancer, heart and lung damage and that the World Health Organisation has classified diesel emissions as cancer causing.
And Hackney Council has proposed launching a £50 levy on parking permits for diesel vehicles over the next three years. Full charges would come into effect in 2017. Other plans put forward by the borough include raising charges for cars built before 2001 to reflect the levels of CO2 they produce.
The UK's Environmental Audit Committee said in December air pollution had become a "public health crisis" and urged a scrappage scheme for diesel cars. London Mayor Boris Johnson has proposed adding £10 to the daily congestion charge for diesel cars,
But pro-diesel campaigners, that include senior manufacturer bosses, today urged policymakers against penalising one fuel against another - and said dealers will play a key role in educating consumers.
At the press conference at the SMMT's London headquarters Jaguar Land Rover managing director Jeremy Hicks, told AM now was the time for action: "When the London borough began to talk about diesel surchages, people were coming into the showrooms asking questions so we have had to equip sales people with the information they need to explain the benefits of Euro 6 in particular. We, and I guess other manufacturers, are spending a lot on informing the people in dealerships that interact with customers."
And Paul Willis, Volkswagen Group UK managing director, said: "What is clear is that none of those in the industry have communicated the benefits of Euro 6 well enough because of the statistic that 87% of people have no idea what it is. I don't think this reflects particularly well on any of us. We need to push its benefits to the consumer."
Hawes said information to ensure decisions on buying a diesel or petrol car are based on "a level playing field" are being distributed throughout manufacturer networks.
He said: "Today's diesel engines are the cleanest ever and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality. Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view.
"We need to avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another and instead encourage the uptake of the latest low emission vehicles by consumers. The allegations against diesel cars made in recent months threaten to misguide policy making and undermine public confidence in diesel."
Mark Ovenden, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, said: "We support customer choice and the market should determine the best technologies for meeting CO2 and air quality goals."
Motoring expert Quentin Willson said at the press conference of his experience from the Fair Fuel UK Campaign: "Legislators knowledge of motoring is woeful. There isn't anybody in the House of Commons or Lords that has a motoring background. So, if we don't raise the awareness of this issue there will be usual Pavlovian, reflex reaction we're seeing in some locals councils and we will get a blanket ban - and consumers will be hugely disadvantaged because there will be a residual value crash."
A 'diesel facts' guide is available on the SMMT website and at www.dieselfacts.co.uk plus will be available in print at dealers.
* The latest and toughest European limits on vehicle emissions is know as Euro 6. From September 1 all new cars must meet the new limit of 130g/km average CO2 emissions across a vehicle's lifetime, with a further target of 95g/km for 2020.