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Pollution fears put 73% of motorists off buying diesel

EU emissions test

An Autocar survey has revealed that 73% of motorists may be put off buying a diesel vehicle due to fears surrounding pollution and emissions.

A total of 1,000 motorists - 38% diesel car owners, 60% petrol car owners and 17% owning a hybrid or EV - were polled by leading advisors Simpson Carpenter on behalf of the magazine.

Of those respondents, just 23% said that they planned to buy diesel next time, with 60% opting for unleaded.

Of the current diesel owners, over half plan to defect to a petrol or a hybrid/EV as the popularity of diesels, which currently make up around 40% of cars on UK roads, looks set to plummet. 

Overall, 17% of buyers indicated that their next car would be hybrid or EV and 22% of diesel owners suggesting they will switch to EV.

However, 78% of petrol owners said they would stick with their current fuel choice.

Autocar’s editor, Mark Tisshaw, said: “These findings are a testament to the public battering diesel has taken over the last few years. We’ve already seen figures showing a diesel sales slowdown but what is clear from this survey is that there will be a major shift towards petrol, hybrid and electric cars.

Buyers also predicted that across the new and used car markets, sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles will come at the expense of diesel, not petrol.

Similar figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that diesel registrations in May this year fell 20% year-on-year.

A total of 81,489 diesels were registered in the month, compared with more than 101,000 in May 2016. 

The overwhelming reason given for not buying a diesel was fears over pollution and emissions, with 73% saying that would put them off.

Uncertainty over what a diesel car might be worth in future was also a worry for motorists, with 41% of those surveyed saying they were concerned about residual values.

Despite fears over the fuel, there is still a high level of resistance to introducing measures to penalise diesel owners.

When asked about four proposed policies, only one received majority of support: banning older diesels from city centres.

That proposal was backed by 56% of motorists, but 68% were opposed to a complete ban on diesels from city centres.

A scrappage scheme for owners of older diesels was seen as more popular, with 74% backing a program that would allow to owners trade such a model in for a completely new car that met latest emissions standards.

Tisshaw said: “While some vilification of diesel is justified, there is a major gulf between the perception and the reality. It is concerning that the majority of buyers now believe diesel is a wholly dirty fuel, pumping out the most CO2 and NOx into the atmosphere. The reality of modern Euro 6 diesels is very different.

“Diesels have done a great job in reducing CO2. Figures from the SMMT indicate that CO2 emissions are over 30% lower than in 2000. Particulates and NOx, while justifiably a hot topic, have been dramatically reduced in modern diesels. Sadly, scandals like Volkswagen Dieselgate have eroded public faith and, despite upcoming real world, impartial testing programmes such as the Worldwide harmonised light vehicles test procedure designed to restore conviction, it is difficult to see the situation changing.

“As this survey has indicated, the beneficiaries – outside of petrol of course – are set to be hybrids and electric cars, which means this could finally be the tipping point for EV take-up. But in the meantime, Autocar certainly doesn’t subscribe to the view that diesel should be dumped. At the heart of this debate is how and where you use your car. And as we’ve outlined below, diesel certainly still has a major role to play.”


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