This is exactly what I predicted back in 2007. An updated version of that post ran here at CC in 2015, after the VW Dieselgate scandal hit. The only difference is that it took a bit longer to really get rolling (downhill), due to inertia. But the VW Dieslegate scandal, which really encompasses much more than just VW’s cheating, has given it the kick in the pants it needed. The drop-off is quite remarkable, except for Italy, which has acquired quite a deep thirst for diesel, thanks to exceptionally strong incentives that lower the price of diesel there.
And what of the future?
In my post from 2007, I quoted a study by the consulting firm AT Kearny which predicted that only 25 percent of Europeans will find diesels an attractive economic proposition by 2020. That prediction may well come true in all of these countries, save Italy. Or at least mighty close. Frankly, these predictions by consulting firms are often as good as a Ouija board’s, but I used it because I felt strongly myself about the inevitability of diesel’s decline.
Cities in Western Europe are furious because their air is not meeting quality standards, due directly because of the vastly higher emissions from diesels than they should have emitted, had they been in compliance. And this does not apply just to VW; all the manufacturers gamed a compliance system that was designed to be very easy to do so. It’s going to take years to unravel just how blatant this whole diesel-fiasco really was. European leadership brought it on themselves to a large extent, by incentivizing diesels to meet CO goals, but then not having a system in place to monitor the actual emissions. Yes, the EPA’s system is bad enough, but the EU system makes that look good in comparison.
Buyers are shunning diesels for the simple reason that they are afraid their cars will increasingly be banned from cities. Older diesels already are in a number of them, and the trend is on an upswing. Clean gasoline engines, and especially gas-hybrids and EVs are perfectly poised to benefit from this. Porsche announced yesterday it’s dropping all of its diesel models.
And who’s the biggest single beneficiary by far? Toyota. Its European sales were up by double digits in 2017, thanks to its strong line of gas hybrids that are now seen as the ideal replacements for diesels, with comparable fuel consumption and much cleaner exhausts, plus the ability to operate in EV mode in dense city centers. Some 50% of Toyota’s sales in Western Europe in 2017 were hybrids.