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Despite the popularity of diesel cars over the past decade, the recent diesel emissions scandal revealed that diesel cars are not as ‘clean’ as they appear to be. As such, buyers are now favouring cars which offer better fuel consumption and performance as opposed to environmental factors.
The survey, conducted by car-buying website, Whatcar.com showed that cost, performance and economy of modern down-sized petrol engines is the preferred option for more than 70 per cent of prospective buyers, with only 40 per cent considering buying a diesel.
The results also show that the shift from diesel to petrol cars is more about running costs than environmental costs following the diesel emissions scandal last year.
Diesel cars produce nitrogen dioxide emissions which has recently been linked to breathing disorders such as asthma and other health-
related issues. Manufacturers are trying to tackle the issue by fitting vehicles with particle filters and catalytic convertors, but this has caused some reliability issues with certain models.
In recent years diesel car sales have matched or exceeded petrol sales. However, in 2014 and 2015, diesel models represented 50.1% and 48.5% of the market share respectively.
More than 84% of car buyers surveyed were also worried about possible legislation changes that may affect the cost of ownership of diesel cars in the future, such as the retail price, fuel duty and vehicle road tax.
The research also revealed that hybrid cars and electric vehicles are even less attractive to prospective buyers with only 12% and 32% of buyers considering a diesel or petrol hybrid vehicle, whilst more than 48% of buyers admitted they would be very unlikely to consider an electric car.
Diesel versus Petrol
Cost – Diesel cars will cost the average buyer around £1500 more to purchase than the petrol equivalent. The idea is that the initial cost will be eventually recouped due to better fuel efficiency, however, recent figures suggest owners may need to drive as far as 45,000 miles before they start to make a saving.
Servicing – Servicing costs for diesel cars tend to be lower due to longer service intervals, but the cost of parts is usually higher than petrol cars.
Performance – The perception that diesel cars are slower and noisier than petrol cars has been changed in recent years thanks to a new generation of turbo engines that have proved to be a successful match for their petrol counterparts. Diesel engines also have the advantage of producing higher torque at lower speeds which is good for overtaking.
Fuel – Diesel is no longer the cheaper fuel at the pump – petrol companies and the government have taken advantage in recent years of the growing popularity of diesel cars and their ‘cleaner’ emissions.
Mileage – In general, you’ll get at least 15-20% more miles per gallon in a diesel car than in a petrol, although petrol cars are starting to catch up by using smaller, more efficient turbo-charged engines.
What Car? editor, Steve Huntingford, said: “There appears to have been a dramatic shift in the petrol and diesel sales seesaw. In the 2000s, legislation changes resulted in a diesel boom but after last year’s revelations and the emergence of extremely efficient downsized petrol engines, the tide has now turned.
“Buyers appear not to be overly concerned about environmental factors. Car buying is usually determined by the financial aspects of the purchase; if buyers fear a diesel crackdown and petrol engines are cheaper to buy while being almost as efficient, it’s easy to understand the changes taking place.”