Are black clouds gathering over diesel’s future?

  06 March 2017

Another day, another negative comment about diesel-powered cars. At least, that’s what it feels like if you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper. There’s no question that concerns over rising air pollution have become more vocal of late. London’s mayor has been particularly exercised over the issue, while Volkswagen’s ongoing dieselgate scandal has kept the topic in the public eye for longer than any industry expert expected.

The forthcoming changes to VED in April aren’t exactly the final nail in diesel’s coffin, but buyers will have to do more mental arithmetic to ensure choosing diesel really does make financial sense. But there are a few black clouds on the horizon that could make selling such vehicles harder in the near future.

The most immediate speed hump could be in Wednesday’s Spring Budget. It’s only speculation at this stage, but there’s a chance that some extra financial penalty could be levied on the sale and running of diesel cars in the form of extra tax. Hopefully the Government won’t rush to bring out the big stick; a more measured and calculated response to the current situation would be better scheduled in the autumn.

Then there’s the spectre of a scrappage scheme specifically for older diesel vehicles, with incentives to nudge prospective buyers into designated low emissions alternatives. And while this all sounds great, any lingering speculation could be putting people off from buying now or in the next few months. Thanks to the April VED changes 2017 is already destined to be an ‘interesting’ year on the sales forecasting front.

It was good to see the SMMT come out fighting with its recent diesel-centric statement, though. The auto retail industry needs a solid counterpoint argument right now, and the SMMT’s fact-based response was a timely one. All we can do now is hope that the politicians take this reasoned view onboard before making any decision on diesel’s fate as a widely used fuel.

Iain Dooley

Editor, Agenda

Auto Retail Network

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