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UK diesel car sales fall as air quality concerns gain traction

From rumblings of inner-city bans of older diesel cars to German carmakers paying customers to trade in their vehicles for electric alternatives, diesel is once again under a choking cloud of bad publicity.

Sales of diesel cars in Britain fell by a fifth in July, while online searches for second hand electric vehicles have risen by 700 per cent, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Autotrader, respectively.

So have UK motorists, once among the most keen diesel purchasers in Europe, turned their back on the fuel?

“People definitely react to what’s in the headlines,” said Andy Bruce, chief executive of Lookers, the UK’s largest listed car dealership.

In November, Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, called for a diesel scrappage scheme, while in February transport secretary Chris Grayling told motorists to “think hard” before buying a diesel car.

“There has been an increase of petrol sales over recent months in relative terms, and we have seen it accelerate in the last couple of months because it’s right in the middle of media focus at the moment,” Mr Bruce said.

But he added that “we haven’t seen diesel cars building up” on forecourts and he expects the fuel to return to its “normal level” of slow decline in the coming months.

Diesel’s share of the new car market has been falling steadily for many years. It was 42.5 per cent in June — the smallest market share since March 2010, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

“I would predict that we’ll continue to see a shift towards petrol, of that there’s no doubt,” said Jeremy Hicks, UK managing director of Jaguar Land Rover.

“The most common question we get in our showrooms is should I buy a diesel or not.”

Dealers for the company’s brands have been advising customers to purchase petrol if they live in big cities and only make short trips, while long-distance commuters are still encouraged to buy diesel…

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