Aston University says diesels face a 'perfect storm'

Diesel cars could make up just 15 percent of the UK car market by 2025, according to experts at a university in Birmingham.

Although diesel power accounted for around half the new car market in 2016, 2017 saw sales slump by more than 17 percent, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) blaming the reduction on ‘confusing anti-diesel messages’.

Now, Professor David Bailey, from Aston University, has said diesel cars face a "perfect storm", and the industry should be braced for another double-digit drop in diesel car sales in 2018.

‘Diesel cars face a raft of challenges,’ he said. ‘Each one of could damage sales, and they are combining to kill off the domestic diesel sector, which was so rattled by the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.’

‘They face a ‘perfect storm’ of bad PR over pollution, coupled with concerns over increasingly strict regulations and sinking second-hand values.

‘Sales of diesels are set to fall by up to 10 percent in 2018, and they could have as little as 30 percent of the market by 2020 – shrinking rapidly to 15 percent by 2025.’

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However, Professor Bailey reckons diesel cars aren’t the only ones in for a tough time, suggesting that the new car market will cool dramatically.

In 2016, the market hit a record high, but 2017 figures saw sales fall by almost six percent, and Bailey says 2018 could prove to be even worse.

‘The car market has been over-trading for some time now,’ he said. ‘That is why 2016 remains one of the best years on record for car sales, despite the marked slowdown in overall purchases.

‘But it’s hardly good news for the sector. None of the factors acting as a brake on car sales has gone away: wages are being squeezed, inflation is creeping up. Then factor in interest rate rises and an ongoing strengthening of European car markets, cutting the number of cheap vehicles offloaded on the UK, and we could be looking at another cut in sales of between five and 10 per cent in 2018.’

In a bid to stop the diesel market shrinking, the SMMT has said customers should be ‘encouraged to buy the right car for their lifestyle and driving needs irrespective of fuel type’, and claims that buying new diesels will help achieve ‘environmental goals’.

Professor Bailey, though, says it’s time drivers were incentivised to move away from diesels and switch to electric cars.

‘Governments have missed several opportunities to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles, starting way back in 2001 when there was a misconceived drive to get people to opt for diesels. Now that it’s clear diesel is dying a slow death, the time is right for the government to take the initiative and offer up scrappage benefits to those who are prepared to ditch their diesels and switch to electric cars,’ he said.

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