RAC Cars News


Petrol car sales pulling ahead of diesel

By raccars Published

Diesel Pump

After a year of anti-diesel rhetoric and unpleasant scandal, diesel car sales fall behind petrol.

It seems that British car buyers are falling out of love with diesel. The market has been surprisingly slow to show the effects of 'dieselgate' but the latest research suggests that the diesel bubble has now burst.

Diesel has been fighting fire on all fronts

There are accusations that it's killing people, that it's ruining air quality and, probably the most important for buyers, that diesel owners are facing paying higher parking charges, higher fuel costs, extra congestion charges and even in some cities a plan to banish diesel cars altogether.

It's pretty disturbing stuff if you are the proud owner of a diesel car which you do not intend to change any time soon, but overall we know that mud sticks. A recent survey focusing on changing attitudes to diesel, shows that 70 per cent of prospective buyers are looking at petrol rather than diesel powered cars. Only four per cent of new car buyers are currently considering a diesel vehicle.

Diesel car sales dropping back

It's a far cry from previous years, where Government campaigning saw petrol and diesel car sales running at neck and neck figures. Diesel cars took 50.1 per cent of the market in 2014 and 48.5 per cent last year. With buyers still claiming that they are more interested in fuel consumption and performance than environmental issues, it seems that running costs are forming an important part of consumers' car buying decisions.

84 per cent of survey respondents expressed concern about changes to legislation which could make diesel car ownership more expensive and less convenient in the future, including those associated with road tax and fuel duty.

However less than a third of people are considering replacing their current car with an electric or hybrid model. Almost half of buyers claim no interest even in thinking about buying electric, lending weight to the suggestion that car sales figures are swayed by financial rather than environmental concerns. Buyers are also being convinced by the new, super-efficient petrol engines, which also tend to be cheaper to buy than their diesel equivalents.

Fuel prices

The cost of buying diesel in the UK is also undoubtedly a factor, with UK diesel prices the highest in Europe according to research by the RAC Foundation. The average price of diesel in the UK was measured last month at £1.13p per litre - more than Italy at £1.10, Sweden at £1.09 and quite a lot more than Denmark at £1.03 for a litre of diesel. Lithuania, Poland and Luxembourg are apparently the cheapest places to fill up with diesel at 74p, 77p and 78p per litre of diesel respectively.

With a number of families driving over to Germany and France on holiday this summer, it's also worth noting that filling up your tank before crossing back over to the UK could save you money, with diesel costing 92p per litre in Germany and 94p per litre in France.

The RAC Foundation claims that the reason for the high cost of diesel in the UK is fuel duty, which is the same as petrol at 57.9p per litre, whereas elsewhere in Europe fuel duty on diesel is lower than that added to petrol.

By contrast, petrol in the UK is the eighth most expensive per litre price in Europe at an average £1.12 per litre. Petrol prices peak in the Netherlands at £1.29 per litre but go down to just 81p per litre in Poland.

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