Currently reading: Analysis: Why new car buyers are ditching diesel for hybrids and EVs
Over one third of prospective new car buyers expected to opt for some form of electrification
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3 mins read
28 June 2019

It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, almost half of the new cars sold in the UK were diesel. 

In May 2017, in the first of a series of powertrain studies done for Autocar, market research firm Simpson Carpenter forecast that within three years diesel sales would fall to 23% of the total new car market – a prediction that was met with some scepticism at the time. 

But now, two years on, diesel sales in the first quarter of 2019 have fallen to just 27% of the new car market. So far, the main beneficiary has been petrol. While buyers expressed an intent to buy hybrid or electric, the relative shortage of available models has limited alternatively fuelled vehicles to just 6% of new car sales. 

Simpson Carpenter’s most recent research for Autocar suggests the move away from diesel will continue, with just 18% of car buyers – new and used – now expecting their next car to be diesel. 

The main shift from diesel is in the new car market, where the proportion of people intending to buy diesel next time is down from 23% in 2017 to just 14%. During the same period, the number of new car buyers expecting to buy a hybrid or electric car has risen from fewer than one in four to more than one in three – growth likely to continue as the choice of models increases. 

Even in the used car market, diesel’s popularity continues to wane. Only 21% now intend to buy a diesel next time – just 2% more than those who say they’ll opt for a hybrid or electric car. The very small number of used hybrids and electric cars on the market means a big imbalance between supply and demand for different powertrains. 

However, petrol car sales are likely to remain healthy for some time. Although one in five of those with petrol-engined cars say they will defect to hybrid or electric next time round, these losses will be largely mitigated by almost one in three diesel owners who plan to switch to petrol. 

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Another nail in diesel’s coffin is the increase in the numbers of current owners who reject the fuel outright. One in five diesel owners now reject the fuel and will no longer even consider it for their next car. These gradually increasing levels of rejection continue to be driven by two core concerns: the environmental effects of diesel and concern over future resale values of diesel cars. 

The only area in which diesel seems likely to retain a significant foothold is with larger cars. Among owners with cars that have engines of 2.0 litres or more, over half will consider diesel next time, with more than a third picking it as the engine type they’re most likely to buy. Conversely, there seems to be no future for diesel among smaller cars.

Why are car buyers turning their back on diesel?

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Comments
21

28 June 2019

No future for small diesel cars makes sense as small cars are primarily used in the city but not always so this restriction of choice is a bad thing really but like I said makes sense. Diesels still have a place for high mileage driver's where their economy and low down torque make for effortless and cost effective motorway cruising. I've had a couple of hybrids and they were both great, economic easy and fun when I wanted it but neither were as good as a diesel on long motorway runs.

28 June 2019

I this is accurate about diesel cars, am I glad I did mine on PCP, rather than putting a loàd of savings into something that's probably going to be worth less than the GMFV....

A34

28 June 2019

It’s amazing how viable electric has become. Private car owners who can afford a 30K car can get a Kia ENiro with good range to charge from their newly viable roof solar setup on their house. Local drivers can get a 2nd hand Leaf. Amazing turnaround from 18mths ago even. In 2 yrs even petrol will be challenged...

28 June 2019
A34 wrote:

It’s amazing how viable electric has become. Private car owners who can afford a 30K car can get a Kia ENiro with good range to charge from their newly viable roof solar setup on their house. Local drivers can get a 2nd hand Leaf. Amazing turnaround from 18mths ago even. In 2 yrs even petrol will be challenged...

I quite agree, I replaced my car in March getting out of diesel for a small turbo petrol. If I had the facility to charge at home I would have been more than happy to consider a Hyundau Kona EV with a 300 mile range and fast charging it would suit me just fine. A Tesla 3 would be great as well, I have superchargers local to me, but they are too expensive for my budget.

28 June 2019
How right you are. I am currently sat at home in the sun whilst my new solar panels are being fitted, searching the internet for a second hand Nissan Leaf for my wife to use to travel her short daily journey to work, having just left the Kia site wondering about a Miro for myself - and I thought I was an individual!!The next 2 years is going to see a massive revolution in how we live, work and travel.

28 June 2019
As someone who bought a diesel five years ago because it was considered better in terms of CO2, I'm unhappy that now it turns out it's really bad for humans. I'm also concerned that my car will be banned from city centres, just as it from London, as low emission zones are rolled out.

28 June 2019
speculatrix wrote:

As someone who bought a diesel five years ago because it was considered better in terms of CO2, I'm unhappy that now it turns out it's really bad for humans. I'm also concerned that my car will be banned from city centres, just as it from London, as low emission zones are rolled out.

I live in London which is why I had to ditch a perfectly lovely diesel car. I think there is a touch of revenue gathering about the ULEZ as well as the health issues. If it was purely health then pre Euro 6 Diesels would just be be banned, but they aren't, they're charged a daily rate.

28 June 2019
The thing is that as regulations grt tougher, the particles the cars release tend to get smaller and smaller, to the degree that they are now being detected inside our cells. Some people are saying that ut kight have been healtier to stick with the old rules. Budget EVs should be insentivised further, their benefits will be multifold.

28 June 2019

It took so long for some people to realise the dis-advantages of, in particular, small diesel cars!

28 June 2019
xxxx wrote:

It took so long for some people to realise the dis-advantages of, in particular, small diesel cars!

There is nothing wrong with a small diesel car, it's usage that is the problem, short journeys in town in a focus or Mondeo diesel or larger is worse than a fiesta diesel doing long motorway mile journeys. Just because it's a small car doesn't mean it is restricted to low city miles. People buy what they can afford and a supermini diesel as a main family car doing lots of miles would have been cheap and cost effective. I had a supermini diesel when I had a lightweight freedom caravan, it was perfect for towing and a lot cheaper than a larger car to buy and run. Now I do next to no miles and mainly drive in town I went for hybrid and now small petrol engined supermini.

Of course now there will be less choice.

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