Diesel car sales accounted for 49% of the total European car market during 2005, the latest quarterly survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and eurocarprice.com shows.
It says that diesel will overtake petrol as the main fuel for new passenger cars this year.
The study also found that prices for diesel cars continued to rise more quickly, by 3.5%, compared with those for petrol cars, which rose by 3.2% in the final quarter of 2005.
Overall, average prices at the end of 2005 were 3.4% higher than a year ago.
PwC UK automotive leader Chris Hibbs said: ‘Although diesel car sales will undoubtedly outstrip those of petrol in the coming year, the debate continues on the ultimate level of penetration they will achieve. They could potentially achieve 55% to 60% of the total market but the extra cost of making diesels to meet tougher emissions requirements means buyers will still have to pay a premium over petrol versions.’
He added: ‘Fuel prices will be another factor. Demand for diesel models tends to be higher in markets where there is the largest price difference between petrol and diesel. Varying levels of diesel fuel taxation between countries will always be a constraint.’
Price increases were consistent across all market segments, although slightly higher in the executive and luxury segments.