A growing number of carmakers are removing diesels from their UK showrooms as demand for the out-of-favour fuel continues to shrink.
Last week, Ford confirmed that the Fiesta – the UK’s most-bought new car for the last 11 years – will no longer be sold with a diesel option, despite it being the most economical engine available for the supermini.
And it has been confirmed in the last week that Honda has shelved diesel entirely from its range of passenger cars, while Renault has pulled oil burners from its line-up except the volume-selling Megane family hatchback – following in the footsteps of the likes of Toyota and Volvo who have committed to ditch diesel entirely.
At death’s door: Honda is the latest car maker to confirm it will no longer sell new diesel models in showrooms due to a lack of demand and shift to electrified vehicles
Demand for diesel cars has nosedived since the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal hit headlines in 2015.
While diesel cars had previously been pushed as they were considered better for the environment, reports emerged showing they were worse for air quality – and the car making giant was found to have been fiddling tests.
Governments and councils have taken a dim view of the fuel type after it was revealed that some models were emitting almost 40 times the harmful nitrogen oxide than customers – and regulators – had been led to believe.
Since Dieselgate, buyers of new diesel cars in the UK have been stung with increased taxation and drivers face the threat of bans from – or additional charges to enter – city centres in their oil-burning motors.
The scandal also accelerated minsters’ push towards an electric future, with internal combustion engined passenger vehicles expected to be fast-tracked to 2035 – and possibly sooner.
This has seen diesel demand slide to record lows.
Just 209,093 diesel passenger cars have been registered to the end of September 2020, representing less than 17 per cent of market share.
That’s down 56 per cent on the same period in 2019, when 478,147 diesel vehicles were sold, official figures show.
But by last year, diesel sales had already crashed. In 2016 – when new car registrations were at record levels and motorists benefited from cheaper tax, diesel cars accounted for half of all models sold, with 1,024,578 registered in the opening nine months of the calendar.
Demand for diesel cars has shrunk considerably in recent years, sparked by Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal
These figures from September 2016 show the huge dip in demand. More diesel cars were registered in September that year than in the first nine months of 2020
Honda, Renault and Ford are the latest to cull diesel
The Covid-19 pandemic did little to help diesel’s case, with sales of alternative-fuel cars overtaking it for the first time in UK history while overall sales slumped as the country was in the first months of lockdown.
With dealerships closed and orders predominantly taken online between April and June, 33,000 pure electric and hybrid cars were registered. That compared to just 29,900 diesels, according to figures from the Department for Transport.
Experts have claimed this was a tipping point for electrified vehicles, and car makers reacted to the recent cliff-edge drop in appetite, with an increasing number of brands reducing their diesel offerings.
Among the latest to do so is Japanese manufacturer, Honda, which has recently pulled the final diesel-powered version of its cars from UK showrooms.
The HR-V compact SUV was the last Honda to be available with a diesel powerplant, but a spokesman confirmed this has now been removed from sale
The diesel HR-V compact SUV was the last to go, it was confirmed this week, meaning the company’s UK line-up is now exclusively petrol, hybrid or battery electric.
A spokesman for the brand told Auto Express that the decision was part of ‘accelerated plans for all its European mainstream car models to be electrified from 2025 to 2022’.
He added: ‘As such, we plan for European production of diesel powertrains to cease by the end of 2022. However, on a local level in the UK, we have now stopped selling diesel cars.’
The 1.5-litre diesel engine previously available in the Kadjar SUV has now been discountinued
The Megane family hatchback will be the only new Renault model sold with a diesel engine from 2021
Another car maker to restrict its diesel offering is French brand Renault, which will remove the majority of its diesel engine options in the UK by the end of the year, Autocar revealed.
The availability of the 1.5-litre diesel Kadjar family SUV has already been culled , while the same will be happening for diesel variants of the Captur crossover and Clio supermini before the end of 2020.
That will leave just the Megane family hatchback in the range with the choice of an oil-burning powerplant.
This is notable as French cars have long been major propoents of diesel power, dating back long before the early 2000s push for the fuel by the UK Government.
Ford confirmed last week that the frugal diesel powerplant for the Fiesta is no longer on sale, insteas launching a mild-hybrid petrol to replace it
Honda and Renault’s news follows Ford’s decision last week to strip the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine from the Fiesta range, leaving buyers limited to only petrol or mild-hybrid powertrains.
That’s despite the 84bhp TDCi engine being – on paper – the most economical motor fitted to the latest iteration of the popular supermini, which has been the most-bought new car in the UK every year since 2008.
It returned an official average fuel efficiency of 65.7mpg and emitted 113g/km CO2 – making it more economical than even the new mild-hybrid powerplants that replace it.
‘Another milestone in the demise of diesel’
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said the decisions by Honda, Renault and Ford was ‘another milestone in the demise of diesel’.
He told This is Money: ‘Just as our enthusiasm for the diesel once rapidly rocketed up it seems now to be fizzling out just as swiftly, so it’s not surprising that manufacturers are withdrawing diesel options from their showrooms, writing off the millions they’ve invested in their development along the way.
The fact that the latest diesel engines are the cleanest ever made is scant comfort when car buyers have spotted which way the wind is blowing
Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation
‘The fact that the latest diesel engines are the cleanest ever made is scant comfort when car buyers have spotted which way the wind is blowing and are turning their backs on new diesels even before the forthcoming government decision on when they should officially be banned from sale.
‘Ultimately, car manufacturers don’t want to be stuck with stock that either they can’t sell by law or no one wants to buy.’
Volvo earlier this year removed the XC40 diesel options from showrooms as part of its ongoing pledge to shift to electric cars
Earlier this year, Volvo – which has already outlined a commitment not to launch any new diesel engines to market as part of its electrification plans – removed the two diesel engine options from the popular XC40 SUV, meaning customers can only order them online with petrol, hybrid or fully-electric power.
Porsche has eliminated the diesel options for its Macan and Cayenne SUVs, Fiat has promised to stop making the engines from 2022, Alfa Romeo will phase them out in favour of mild-hybrids and Nissan has committed to ceasing development of oil burning engines.
Lexus was the first major manufacturer to erase diesel from its range entirely, with the luxury arm of Toyota prioritising hybrid vehicles and cutting out diesel engines in 2013 – a decision its parent company is also adopting.
Lexus was the first to ditch diesel powertrains in 2013, instead selling self-charging hybrids
Michael Woodward, UK automotive lead at Deloitte, said diesel market share could be overtaken by battery electric and plug in hybrid cars, ‘if not by the end of the year, then almost certainly in early 2021’.
A defiant Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, said that the latest diesel engines are ‘the right choice for many drivers who have high mileage needs or carry heavy loads’ as he staked claim for the survival of the under-fire fuel type.
‘They will continue to play an important role in the transition to zero emission transport, with the latest models offering emissions on par with equivalent petrols.
‘The fuel is also crucial in powering our vans, trucks and buses transporting essential goods, emergency services and people,’ he added.
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