Recent figures published by the SMMT not only reveal that sales of diesel-engine passenger vehicles are down year-on-year for seven of the last eight months, but that they are also being replaced by petrol and alternative fuel vehicles.
We know that diesel has had a hard time – the impact of ‘dieselgate’ may be beginning to hit retail sales, and concerns around air quality, diesel emissions and the London ultra-low emission zone might be causing car buyers to turn to ‘cleaner’ powered vehicles.
What can be done to help the profile of diesel power in passenger vehicles and how does this differ with commercial vehicles?
High mileage company car drivers will continue to buy diesel for the fuel economy benefits and low CO2 output. However, with the average UK motorist driving only 8,000 miles per annum, the additional cost to purchase a diesel-powered vehicle can already be prohibitive to retail buyers. In many ways, this naturally plays into the hands of petrol and hybrid vehicles.
The cost of purchasing a hybrid vehicle has fallen dramatically over the past ten years. The technology has become so widespread that some OEMs, namely Toyota, now offer a hybrid variant on almost 50% of their models sold in the UK.
However, there are businesses out there working diligently to improve the image (and performance) of existing diesel technologies. By way of example, commercial vehicles have long been diesel-powered, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, there are a number of innovations being marketed to meet Euro 6 emission standards and to try and reduce further the ongoing running costs of fleets. This may involve integrating some form of electric augmentation into the powertrain, upgrading the particulate filter to a higher spec, or even developments in software to enable better route management and scheduling.
The breadth of businesses in this space is vast but all are seeking to achieve similar successes for their clients – lower running costs with greener credentials. These businesses will be very busy over the coming years as Euro 6 standards are adopted globally. It’s therefore likely that consolidation will occur in this part of the supply chain in order for larger players to access technologies quicker than others. This will prove that there’s still life left in diesel power.