Joe Howick's blog: Will scrappage mean the end of the road for diesel vehicles?
20 February 2017
The total number of diesel cars sold worldwide last year reached 10 million. Around 7.5 million of those cars were sold in Europe, making the recent issues of pollution and public health risks associated with them, a very European problem indeed.
Over the last 15 years' motorists in the UK have been encouraged to drive diesel vehicles because they were found to produce less CO2 than their petrol equivalents. The Government incentivised businesses to choose them by offering lower tax rates and car manufacturers switched their focus towards developing more efficient, cleaner diesel vehicles to meet the increase in demand.
But diesel's public image has fallen from grace in recent years. The dieselgate scandal, illegal levels of pollution recorded in major UK cities, combined with evidence that toxins emitted by diesel vehicles are contributing to the early deaths of 50,000 people a year, are causing motorists to re-evaluate their vehicle choices.
The demonisation of diesel is already apparent, with sales of diesel cars falling by 4.3% to 78,778 in January 2017, when compared with the same period last year, according to SMMT figures. Several major cities around the world are already looking to ban diesel cars within the next 10 years and London mayor Sadiq Khan is introducing a toxicity fee in the capital from 23October for pre-Euro 4 vehicles. He also has plans to launch the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone as early as 2019 to deter the most polluting cars.
Charities and health professionals are lobbying Government to get pollution levels under control, the EU is threatening to take Britain to court if it breaches air pollution limits again and local authorities across England are considering plans to improve air quality by enforcing bans or restrictions on the use of diesel vehicles in city centres.
If it's approved by the Government, Khan's latest proposal for a diesel scrappage scheme could form the catalyst for a much steeper decline in diesel sales within the UK. This will, no doubt, contribute to a fall in their residual values, costing vehicle funders and car manufacturers millions.
It is imperative that we remove older, less efficient diesel vehicles from the UK's roads and encourage further take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles. However, there is still an important role for the latest Euro 6 diesel cars and vans to play in a company's vehicle fleet, in terms of their lower running costs and environmental benefits, compared with petrol vehicles.
Joe Howick is chief operating officer at FleetEurope