By on October 2, 2017

vintage diesel fuel pump

Diesel-powered passenger vehicle sales have fallen in Europe. Data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) showed diesel’s year-over-year market share plummeting in the first half of 2017, sinking from 50.2 percent to 46.3 percent of all new car registrations in the EU.

Helped by negative publicity and governmental intervention, it’s the first time diesels have dipped below the 50 percent mark since 2009. ACEA’s figures indicate 152,323 fewer diesel cars sold so far in 2017, attributing some of the decline to a renewed interest in gasoline-powered vehicles. Of course, if you aren’t buying diesel, you don’t have a lot of other options.

Still, deliveries of “alternative” vehicles — which include hybrid, electric, and natural gas-powered automobiles — also rose by more than 35 percent. Those categories now account for 5.2 percent of Europe’s total auto sales. 

It’s not terribly surprising. With most German automakers involved in some kind of of diesel emissions investigation over the last few years, the fuel’s image has taken a major PR hit. Meanwhile, electrically-driven cars have been praised as the green solution we’ve all been waiting for.

Hoping to encourage the change, much of Europe has implemented tax breaks for EV adopters. While this is also a common practice in North America, some European countries are taking things a step further with proposed timelines that would essentially ban all sales of internal combustion vehicles by 2040.

France has also been attempting to strip longstanding incentives from diesel sales and Paris has a plan to prohibit diesel-powered cars from entering the city by 2025. Other cities have proposed similar solutions to air quality issues in urban areas.

Despite its large population, Germany is one of the few countries dragging its feet. While its government has proposed similar bans, support for those initiatives remains limited — possibly because of the country’s strong connection to the automotive industry.

While the European shift away from diesels is likely to to reduce soot and NOx emissions from its atmosphere, ACEA warned that more gasoline engines could make it difficult for the region to meet CO2 reduction targets. “Policy makers need to be aware that a sudden shift from diesel technology to petrol will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions, given that the market penetration of alternative powertrains remains low,” explained ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert.

“Alternative powertrains will undoubtedly play an increasing role in the transport mix, and all European manufacturers are investing heavily in them,” Jonnaert said in a statement. “To this end, more needs to be done to encourage consumers to buy alternatively-powered vehicles, for instance by putting in place the right incentives and deploying recharging infrastructure across the EU.”

“In the meantime, however, as diesel cars emit significantly less CO2 than equivalent petrol-powered vehicles, they will have to be part of the gradual transition to low-carbon vehicles, acting as a ‘bridge’ technology.

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7 Comments on “Old Hat: European Sale of Diesel Cars Overtaken by Gasoline for the First Time Since 2009...”

  • avatar

    if you asked me to come up with an example which I believe is truly over-regulation (or poorly-thought-out regulation) this would be it. “Let’s incentivize the market towards diesel because CO2, then write such hilariously loose, loophole-ridden emissions test procedures that we create a much more urgent, immediate problem (smog!)”

    At least the EPA was consistent in just saying “Diesels no longer get a free pass, they need to meet the same trace pollutant standards as gas engines.”

  • avatar

    The Germans are really worried about the likes of Tesla, and they are also are getting flak from the environmentalists for said foot dragging. Prost!

  • avatar

    I’m not gonna tell Europe what to do or anything but their extremely high “fuel tax” still heavily subsidizes sales of new diesel autos.

    There’s no real need to ban diesels.

    Diesel autos aren’t the rational choice, all things equal, for everyday passenger cars anyway. And it’s not like F-series would dominate the Euro landscape with US type fuel prices/taxes or anything. But it’d be hilarious if they did.

    • 0 avatar

      Not subsidizes, incentivizes. There really is not much difference in price of diesel vs. gas in most European countries anymore – in England diesel has been slightly more for a long time. The added economy while still maintaining performance was the big driver. But now you can get that with small DI turbo gas motors. Compare the performance and economy of the VW 1.4TSI and the old 2.0L TDI. Not much in it, and the gas motor is a lot cheaper to buy (and cleaner, obviously). You used to have to buy some little 1.2l gas wheezer to match the economy of a bigger stronger diesel.

      Ultimately, the Europeans are far smarter about these things, for the most part. They encouraged conservation by making fuel expensive and making big engines expensive. So you could buy what you like, but it would cost you. Here, we force manufacturers to make product that the typical American doesn’t want, so that they can also make what they do want. It’s a crazy setup.

      • 0 avatar

        “Ultimately, the Europeans are far smarter about these things, for the most part”

        That’s one stupid comment, for the most part. They’ve got a full blown ecological and health disaster on their hands, and it was totally unnecessary.

        Subsidies, incentives, same dif. Even on an even playing field, gas vs diesel prices, mpg or Imperial liters per whatever, become tremendous selling points with the very high prices of either.

        Any way you slice it, the Europeans F’d up. And it was partly to protect their auto industry. Hey it’s not me the owe an apology to. But they need to fix it ASAP.

      • 0 avatar

        The difference is that TDIs remain relatively economical even if you really step on it on the Autobahn.
        Small displacement petrol turbos are only frugal in low burden test cycles. Once you use the power they start drinking.

        • 0 avatar

          What’s their average “liters to km” or “performance” once they’re banned in Europe?? That doesn’t sound very fast/efficient to me… Or when “cheater” diesels are actually forced into actual legit “compliance”???

          Either way, European policy makers have blood on their hands. It’s catastrophe that didn’t have to happen. All they had to do is follow the US EPA model or something similar. Nope they had to set the rules 100% different, the easiest/simplest route, and most revenue generating.

          How’s that worked out for them?

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