‘Diesel may die slowly, but it will die.’
Ferdinand Dudenhöffer is a renowned car expert in Germany, director of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) of Duisburg University. He is a close follower of the car market (especially in Germany) and sees the diesel engine slowly fading away.
The industry has admitted to this too. A lot of car manufacturers have severely reduced their diesel offer. Since the outbreak of dieselgate, 24 models have no diesel offer anymore, according to CAR. For another 40 models, diesel demand is so weak that the engine tends to disappear there as well.
The industry and the engineers needed a few years to recover from the scandal, but now that the newest diesel engines are exceptionally clean, nobody wants them anymore. All over Europe, diesel sales have fallen sharply. In some countries, they’re recovering slightly recently, but they won’t ever reach the figures of five years ago.
Audi 1 diesel: reduced to nil
A few examples for Germany illustrating this. In 2015 more than half of the Fiats 500L sold were diesel-engined; in 2019, it fell back to 7,6%. The Audi A1 had diesel engines for more than a third in 2015; at the end of last year, this was reduced to… nil.
Not so long ago, the diesel car was reigning, at least in Europe. Countries like Belgium and France counted 70% or more diesel cars in new car registrations, even the (long time) diesel deniers in the UK went derv.
Outside Europe, the picture looked entirely different. Even a grown-up market like the North-American, with much long-distance travel, had practically no diesel engine under the hood of passenger cars. The VW group wanted to alter this, we know now how it ended, with the dieselgate scandal.
Recovery not significant enough
Of course, there are markets in Europe were the diesel engine has recovered some ground, especially in bigger models like SUVs. We’re thinking of Germany, Belgium, and the Eastern countries, but in the Netherlands, for example, it’s less than 10%. The Dutch sold twice as many electric cars as diesel ones.
The problem is that under 10% of share in a specific model, diesel makes no sense because it’s simply too expensive,” says Dudenhöffer. Even in Germany, this threshold isn’t reached anymore for a lot of models; something thought impossible five years ago.
It may well be that the latest versions of the diesel engine are not causing pollution problems anymore, and their CO2 balance may still be attractive, but the market has evolved. The good times won’t come back. Dudenhöffer concludes: “The diesel engine may die slowly, but it will die.”