By on July 17, 2008

Not the bargain it once wasWe often get accused of diesel-bashing. But there's no getting around the fact that the decline of the diesel market penetration in Europe has begun. With diesel now costing the same as gasoline in Germany (we should be so lucky), the higher up-front costs of most diesel versions just doesn't pan out. Auto, Motor und Sport (print version only) has done an analysis of the minimum km per year required to amortize various diesel versions of popular cars. A few examples: 38k km (23k miles) for the BMW X-5; 30k km (18.3k miles) for the Opel Corsa, 25k km (15.3k miles for the MB E-class). In may, diesel's Eurozone market share dropped to 44 percent, from 47 percent in April. One study predicts that diesels will eventually lose fully half their market share. Another study shows that at least one-fourth of current German diesel drivers are seriously considering switching to a gas car with their next purchase. It looks like the party's over before the States could find the address. 

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18 Comments on “European Diesel Decline Has Begun...”

  • avatar

    Tough diesel emissions standards have raised the cost of fuel and initial purchase price while somewhat reducing efficiency and power. Meanwhile, direct injection and turbocharging are becoming more popular in gasoline engines, narrowing some of the efficiency with diesels.

  • avatar

    Not doubting the fundamental shift, but:

    Market share of diesels dropped in May to 44 percent, from 47 percent in April

    Do you mean as a part of NEW car sales, or do you mean the overall market of new and existing cars? Surely it’s the former, unless people are sending diesels to the crusher.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    ash78, new car market share.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Also, keep in mind that Europeans average fewer miles per year than Americans. So these numbers look pretty big for most new car purchasers.

  • avatar

    For how many years do they have to drive the specified km/year before the diesel option is paid off?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    rpn453, It’s based on annual total operating costs (depreciation, taxes, insurance, etc.) I can’t readily answer your question. Most Europeans don’t keep cars very long.

  • avatar

    Damn. I guess my dream of a TDI-powered roadster is dying eh?



  • avatar

    Many european states put lower taxes on diesel in the past, to support farmers and truckers. Individuals saw the loophole, and diesel car sales took off. It’s now coming back.

    And while diesels have better fuel economy, they also reject far more other pollutants than gasoline engines, unless fitted with expensive filters.

  • avatar

    and the regeneration cycle the filter needs every so often is killing MPG, thus edging people away from the diesel.

  • avatar

    You wan to talk about meddling government subsidies, let’s talk about the US government & ethanol.

    “reject far more other pollutants” – AKM

    OK, diesels produce more heavy particulates than gas due to their oil-burning nature, however, they produce fewer green house gases and get better mileage (without a 400 pound box of acid in the trunk)

    I like gas too, don’t get me wrong, and turbo and direct-inject are certainly changing the math back towards gas’ favor, but both fuels have a big place for the foreseeable future in how we get from point a to point b. I guess I just don;t understand the diesel bashing. I have many friends in Europe, many have diesels, some have gas, but we seem to be playing awfully fast and loose with the facts here. Diesels do lend themselves much better to bio-fuels (check Brazil and sugar cane) than ridiculously trying to run gas on corn juice.

    Can’t we all just get along

  • avatar

    I think part of the problem is that the modern diesels may not be as bulletproof as their predecessors. If the fuel costs the same, you could still be ahead on mileage and depreciation. If your last diesel depreciated just like a gasoline version, then you may not be so eager to buy another.

    Fuel is cheap, depreciation is expensive.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Can we possibly agree that the ICE is reaching the end of its productive lifespan? Here a little dieseling, there a little turbocharging, elsewhere a little VVT…when will we admit it’s pointless? When the Stanley Steamer comes back?

    We need to get on with it, and I look forward to the day when hydrocarbon fuels are $20, $50, $75 a gallon. Nothing like a little feet-to-the-fire to promote R&D.

  • avatar

    The diesel emissions issue is partially particulates, partially NOx, because of the higher combustion temperatures. Euro 4 and Euro 5 emissions standards give diesel engines a three times higher allowance for NOx than petrol engines.

    To some extent, there are trade-offs to be made between greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

  • avatar

    To some extent, there are trade-offs to be made between greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

    Given the choice, I’ll take greenhouse gases over smog. Having spent a fair amount of time in European cities a while back, I can say that the ground-level pollution from diesel is very unpleasant. Outside of Mexico, LA and (on really, really bad days) Toronto, I haven’t been in a North American city that has the kind of eye-and-throat-burning air quality that Paris had on a daily basis.

    Granted, this was a while ago and newer Euro-4 cars will help, but it’s still very bad. I can’t imagine what a city with an unfortunate geography like Los Angeles would be like if diesel cars made up >50% of those on the road.

    How Europe can have otherwise very progressive green programs but allow this is astounding. The only rationale I can determine is that it was a sort of shadow-protectionism that supported companies that specialized in diesel powerplants (and who all, coincidentally, happened to be European) against foreign competitors (who didn’t). Now that Toyota et al have diesel powerplants that compare favourably with those from VW, MB and Renault, that tax advantage isn’t useful.

  • avatar

    So, um, how come Bloomberg’s article about European sales in June says Toyota took a big hit (along with other Asian makes) because they didn’t offer enough diesels?

    “Asian carmakers are just falling off a cliff, because they don’t offer as many diesels” as their European competitors, said London-based Credit Suisse analyst Arndt Ellinghorst.

    I’m not saying they’re right, but if they aren’t, why DID the Asian makers take such a dive? Toyota dove 18 percent despite the introduction of a new compact hatchback (Auris). Honda fell 22 percent!

  • avatar

    First of all, the 400 lbs of urea proposed for the Mercedes BlueTech diesel emissions control is NOT ACID. Urea,like the ammonia from which it is derived is a BASE.

    Second, the Mercedes system won’t work due to the fact that urea,at concentrations as low as 40% salts out @ 30 degrees F PLUS.

    The Mercedes system must use TINCTURES of urea to be usable at winter temps. Might as well just use plain water.
    Of course Daimler can super-insulate and/or heat the urea tank, but this adds to weight and energy consumption.
    Even if you could keep 40% urea above 30 at all times, the venturi effect in the nozzles may well cool it below 30 and eventually salt out the nozzles.
    How to clear the nozzles? Best done with steam. Gonna put small boilers in the cars?

    Third, when salted-out urea is steam heated, ammonia is liberated. Can you imagine the stink in a crowded parking garage if dozens of diesels go into steam-out cycle at once?
    And what of the inevitable overpressurization of a mini-boiler whose electric heater’s thermostat–built by the lowest bidder to minimal standards–
    causes a relief to lift in,lets say,Manhattan at rush hour. The result could be a mass panic of people trying to escape the “car bomb”.

  • avatar

    @zenith: why wouldn’t it work???
    It already works! All European truck manufacturers have adopted the urea based system (SCR-catalysts) to achieve EURO V emissions, although MAN and Scania say they will introduce EGR-only systems soon (just as they use for EURO IV, only more recirculating exhaust gas).
    The urea is sold under the name AdBlue at every truck pump.
    How it works? Look at or how stuff works.

  • avatar

    Checked out the two sites you suggested Albert, and found nothing that tells of the minimum concentration of urea necessary to make the system work. Remember that 40% salts out at +30F.

    Nothing in either source about keeping the tank warm and agitated–don’t agitate and the stuff stratifies into its components–urea and water.

    Nothing about clearing salt from nozzles. It’s true that while the engine runs, the nozzles stay at exhaust system temperature–well above salt-out temp for concentrations of 80% or more, but what happens when the the car is parked and the exhaust cools? The salt won’t just melt back out as the system warms back up,

    I can see this system as useful for an 18-wheeler engine or trailer reefer unit that never gets turned off or taxi/police service where the vehicle runs nearly 24/7, but for a commuter car that sits approx 8 daylight hours and approx 12 nighttime hours in mid-winter-no way.

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