Love for Diesels exhausted by emissions scandals

Published at, 28th March 2017 survey finds 61% put off by concerns about effects of diesel emissions

  • Diesel sales set to plunge as survey shows 61% are being put off by uncertainty
  • News coverage and political posturing is making buyers think twice about diesel
  • Sales of diesels have already started to fall as alternative fuels take off
  • Exclusive video available to embed at

Almost two-thirds of consumers have been put off buying a diesel car by recent reports on the negative effects of diesel engine emissions, according to leading car reviews site

Carbuyer’s exclusive survey showed 61% of respondents have been put off buying a diesel car, 33% said they’d been unaffected by the negative stories and 6% said they weren’t aware of any news.

Additionally research into Google search trends shows a massive 127% increase in users looking for hybrid cars in the first three months of 2017, compared to the same period last year. In comparison, searches for diesel cars have grown by just 9%.

Carbuyer’s findings echo a trend highlighted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), showing diesel sales are down 9.2% in February 2017 compared with February 2016. Sales of alternative-fuel vehicles such as hybrids and battery-powered cars, meanwhile, were up 48.9% over the same period.

Recent months have seen an increased focus on diesel in the media. Stories covered by Carbuyer in that time include diesel-car owners being charged more to park in certain parts of London and the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, proposing a diesel scrappage scheme.

Carbuyer editor, Stuart Milne, said: “Our poll and the SMMT’s sales data both suggest diesel’s unpopularity could well grow in the coming months. While diesel can still be a cost-effective choice for high-mileage motorists and those running larger cars, we regularly advise buyers that modern petrol, hybrid and plug-in vehicles can be a better option for shorter trips and urban motoring in particular.”

“There’s no immediate prospect of a diesel ban, diesel tax or diesel scrappage scheme in the UK, but we’ll continue to follow this story closely and keep our readers informed of the latest developments.”

Diesel cars surged from making up around 10% of the new car market in the nineties to just under 50% today – in part thanks to tax incentives and a perception of diesel as being greener than petrol.

Since 2001, the UK’s road-tax system has incentivised the purchase of cars with low CO2 output, but a new system coming into force on 1 April sees cars emitting any amount of CO2 liable for at least a £140 annual charge. Only zero-emissions vehicles, such as electric cars, will escape.

While diesel engines don’t produce as much CO2, they’re more polluting than petrol engines in other ways, emitting relatively high levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter – microscopic pieces of soot – and this is where health concerns arise.

Diesel exhaust fumes are recognised as posing a significant threat to human health, linked to everything from cancer and heart problems, to lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis; there’s even evidence to suggest they play a role in the development of dementia. A 2016 study by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, meanwhile, found 40,000 early deaths in the UK are due to air pollution, every year.

Tightening regulations are also increasing the list price of diesel cars, making them more expensive to buy. The latest diesel engines also use AdBlue, a chemical that’s injected into exhaust fumes to reduce the effects of pollutants, plus diesel fuel is more expensive to buy than petrol. All of this is expected to price diesel engines out of certain sectors of the market, and the diesel supermini is likely to become extinct within a few years.

Dealers we spoke to said there had been a marked shift in attitude towards diesel cars among customers. “A few months ago, customers would look at the petrol and diesel models and decide on cost and fuel consumption,” said one. “Now some are just flat-out refusing to consider diesel, which is something we’ve never seen before. Those that don’t refuse outright are more wary and are asking more questions.”

Another dealer we spoke to added: “We order new and used cars for stock weeks in advance and usually have the right mix of petrol and diesel models. But in the past few weeks there’s been a real shift. The petrol cars are in short supply and there’s a waiting list, but I could deliver a diesel tomorrow.”

Read Carbuyer’s story on diesel concerns for the latest developments in this area.

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