Sales of new diesel cars continue to decline and in January fell by more than 25% to just 58,000, down from 78,000 a year ago.
The publicity surrounding diesel emissions plus rises in taxation are clearly deterring many new car buyers, as figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) prove.
Sales of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) are up by a similar amount (24%), but they start from such a low base that they are doing little to alleviate the fall in the new car market.
The SMMT blames Government for the drop in diesel demand and believes consumers and businesses are not switching into alternative technologies, but simply keeping their older cars running longer.
This is far from surprising. Our research at the end of last year showed drivers’ knowledge of AFVs was generally lacking, with some 84% of respondents saying they knew what AFV meant, but 82% of them are not running one.
When prompted, 82% of respondents said they had heard of hybrid electric vehicles; 72% had heard of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; but only 61% knew of battery electric vehicles and just 28% of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
The true level of knowledge was only unearthed when respondents were asked to match the various types of low emission vehicles against definitions of how they operate.
While 66% of those surveyed were able to correctly match the definition for battery electric vehicles, this dropped to 38% for hybrid electric vehicles and 28% for fuel cell electric vehicles. Just 24% could successfully identify a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle from its definition.
Given the lack of knowledge of the various vehicle types available, it was perhaps unsurprising that the percentage of drivers who were likely to opt for these types of vehicles as their next car was generally low.
Only 33% of drivers said that they were likely to consider a hybrid electric vehicle as their next car; 27% said they would consider a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle; just 22% said they would consider a battery electric vehicle.
More education is clearly needed before we start to see a more determined switch to AFVs.
By John Lawrence, managing director of CLM