By on April 29, 2019

1975 Mercedes-Benz 240D in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Europe, the continent where tech-savvy bad guys in action movies come from, finds itself in a rapid and transformational shift. As European lawmakers and city governments turn their back on diesel, so too are automakers and customers.

Compared to past years, the take rate for diesel automobiles now resembles the trajectory of American-market passenger cars. Last month, the continent posted the worst sales showing for diesel vehicles this century. In what DPRK News Service calls “Belgian’s colonies,” the take rate for diesel — which once surpassed 55 percent — is accelerating its descent to zero.

It seems you can tax the evil away.

According to data published by JATO Dynamics, the European take rate for diesel vehicles sunk to 31.2 percent in March. Compare that to 36.1 percent in March of 2018 and 44.8 percent the year before.

Diesel’s high water mark in the European Union came in 2011, when 56.1 percent of all vehicles sold came equipped with compression ignition engines. Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel scandal was the wakeup call the continent’s regulators and lawmakers needed to bring the hammer down on the (relatively) low-tax fuel. That same year saw the fuel reach its greatest tax advantage versus gasoline — a nearly 19 euro cents per liter incentive to choose oil burners. Since then, Bloomberg reports, the advantage has shrunk by roughly a third, with some countries (like the UK) placing the two fuels on an even taxation playing field. At the pump, gasoline prices now average less than 3 cents per liter more than diesel.

More taxes are on the way, and ever more stringent emissions laws and the newfound ability for cities to ban diesel vehicles will only serve to accelerate the decline. Automakers have responded in part, with many promising electrified versions of all models by a point in the near future. German engineers are working at a feverish pace, eager to arm the citizenry with electric cars the government can’t legislate away.

It seems those efforts are already being felt.

In March, electrified vehicles (EV, PHEV, and “normal” hybrid) sailed past the 100,000 mark in the EU, with 125,400 registrations logged — a 31 percent year-over-year increase. Of that number, the Tesla Model 3 accounted for over 15,000. Buyers in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain seem especially eager to make the switch from ICE to EV.

Even more shocking is the overall decline in utility vehicle sales, which actually fell last month. That said, compact utes still showed growth — it’s the big guys Europeans are shying from.

Helping the volume drop of diesel vehicles in Europe is a cooling off period of overall vehicle sales. EU passenger vehicle sales fell 3.2 percent in March, the seventh consecutive monthly year-over-year drop in the region.

[Source: Autocar] [Image: ©2017 Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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29 Comments on “Let It Bleed: As Buyers Dry Up, Europe’s Diesel Affair Is Clearly Over...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’ve never been a big diesel fan, but I never thought I’d see it’s demise come so quickly

  • avatar
    Jon

    Not really sure if it was an affair. Seems more like a divorce of a long term wife. Gas has become the rebound girl until electric becomes old enough to date.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    My test for which way that wind is blowing in Europe is rental cars. After years of almost always getting a diesel, my last two have turned out to be gas (last week and last fall, UK).

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I think, certain municipalities banning diesels from city centers is likely to have more of an effect on consumer action than anything else.

    People are probably reluctant to give up diesel as long as it holds any sort of real or perceived cost advantage/longevity advantage. But if you cant take it everywhere you need to go, the issue of your next car has pretty much been decided for you.

    Just like trucks here in the US. Raise the cost of fuel, they wont disappear, but ban full sized pickups from entering heavily congested cities….well, maybe I dont need a truck after all.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Diesel is still the best fuel for long distance cruising. Because of the favourable taxes over the last decade, many folk were buying diesels who shouldn’t have been. New clean diesels are increasingly intolerant of short trips and stop-start usage, and less easy to live with in general.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      Agreed. And this is why I am holding on to my two Diesel cars for as long as possible. In fact last year I added the new Skoda Octavia Combi 2.0 TDI vRS to my fleet. It comes with a lot of emissions cleaning technology so before I use the Start-Stop feature I make sure that I have driven it warm. This means at least 30 km of driving. Once the engine and very critically the DPF are warm, the Start-Stop feature is not a problem. So I am told.

      • 0 avatar
        WallMeerkat

        I too own a Skoda Octavia diesel.

        However on mine the Stop-Start won’t kick in until the car has gotten up to temperature.

        And if it is doing a DPF regen it won’t kick in (the idle revs will sit around 1000rpm).

        £20 a year tax, but if I were to drive it over to London it would cost at least that per day. 50+mpg is nice too after my old 29mpg Saab.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Its amazing to me how they destroyed this technology.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Top-down government direction and incentives got Europe diesels in the first place. The fascination du jour is electric and it will reduce pollution in congested areas. However, in the case of Germany, 1/4 of their energy production is from lignite coal, aka brown coal. This stuff is high carbon, low energy content, high ash content semi-petrified peat. Lets see if Germany can eliminate coal entirely. Brave words when they are committing to BEVs in the same time period.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In the U.S.A. the blush went flying off the Diesel rose a few years ago, there are some hold outs but the rust belt will force them to go away ere long .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    arthurk45

    This is very amusing – a study by a German company just produced results that demonstrates that a diesel is cleaner and less toxic than a Tesla Model 3. Of course, the public can’t fathom anyhting complicated – they actually believe that an electric car produces zero emissions.

    • 0 avatar
      Zipster

      That’s true, if the electricity is produced by solar panels or wind mills.

      • 0 avatar
        Jon

        What art45 may be referring to is the HUGE amount of carbon and pollutants produced when mining the materials for and manufacturing the lithium-ion batteries for the Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Yeah, that’s because you can pick solar panels off a solar panel tree for free and and harvest wind mill seeds from a different section of the forest.
        TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, thermodynamics, its the Law.

        • 0 avatar
          Zipster

          I have not done the calculations, but it would be interesting to determine how much gasoline a 350 watt solar panel would supplant over its 30 year lifetime. Relative to its power output, the energy used to produce a panel is negligible.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Yeah, that’s because you can pick solar panels off a solar panel tree for free and and harvest wind mill seeds from a different section of the forest.
        TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Thermodynamics, its the Law.

    • 0 avatar
      NutellaBC

      It’s a well known fact that gas mysteriously appear out of nowhere in gas pumps. People who believe that gas requires oil extraction, refining and transportation (activities that don’t generate emissions) tend to believe that Earth is flat. Another known fact: batteries are not recyclable.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      If a study disagrees with every peer-reviewed study that has come before it, maybe you should be skeptical. As it happens, that study is baloney.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Not surprising that diesel sales decline coincides with decline in larger SUV sales, as paying $7+ per gallon for unleaded is very painful with a large 25 mpg gasoline powered vehicle in Europe vs a 35 mpg diesel version. Thus if diesel is eliminated, so are sales of large cars unless the EV subsidies make the Tesla S or X somewhat affordable as in Norway.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      SUVs are steadily increasing in popularity in Europe. Maybe not full size US style SUVs, but people are replacing small hatchbacks and sedans with crossover SUVs.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    Gasoline cars are the next victims on the list of these radical European Greens and environmental groups. First it was the Diesel because of NOx, now it’s gasoline because of ‘Feinstaub’ (fine particulates) and benzene.

    Diesel sales in Germany have actually been increasing over the last two months if my memory serves me right. A EURO6d Temp certified Diesel is the best thing you can get at the moment. I own one, a 2018 Skoda Octavia Combi vRS 2.0 TDI. No bad smells or black smoke, even when the engine and anti-pollution systems are cold.

    I have to wonder if electric cars are truly the solution, because currently in Europe, or at least in my country (Germany), the anti-car attitude is strong with several well-connected organizations calling for ‘car-free cities’. They are planning a utopia in which cities are car-free and everyone is driving to work or performing their shopping with a bicycle. Utter madness.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The Feinstaub issue has been created in the past decade by the proliferation of direct injected engines that are also more expensive, noisier and more maintenance-intensive than port-injected engines. It probably wasn’t done on purpose to create an excuse for limiting use of gas engines as with diesels.

      Europe’s diesel problem was created by governments that used tax policies to social engineer markets while ignoring obvious problems with diesel exhaust, exactly as EVs are being forced on the public by manipulating markets while ignoring obvious issues associated with electrical generation, cobalt mining, lithium supply, and battery life cycles. Learning from past mistakes is an archaic concept.

      • 0 avatar
        ThomasSchiffer

        Indeed. EVs may be emission free while driving, but their electricity source remains the crucial factor in terms of environmental friendliness. That is one aspect. The other, as you have stated, are the precious resources required to build an EV, particularly the battery.

        I am of the opinion that synthetic, carbon-free fuels could be a viable alternative if produced with renewable energy sources. That way the internal combustion can soldier on and make use of the high energy density found in liquid fuels while having a greener ecological footprint.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    “They are planning a utopia in which cities are car-free and everyone is driving to work or performing their shopping with a bicycle. Utter madness.”

    ! GAH ! .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    Wow. “Old man yells at cloud” abounds here.

    • 0 avatar

      You aren’t yelling at a cloud when the anti car agenda takes away a full travel lane and a half from a major avenue in NYC, puts “bikeshare” on streets, removes parking and makes the remaining parking expensive and annoying. You aren’t yelling at a cloud when the anti car forces get “congestion pricing” to pay for the money pit that is the subway/bus system…a few days after congestion tax was passed, an article came out showing a full third of the passengers on buses don’t pay the fare-and that they don’t want to crack down on them !

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Most of the time I don’t believe in this but yesterday the Mayor of Los Angeles detailed some whacky green initiative that includes almost ZERO automobiles and other tomfoolery…..

        The insanity is real it appears .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    “Belgian’s colonies”
    Fabian Picardo has denounced you.
    ;-)

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