Demonising diesel: Shock/horror fades so interest returns

  • UK owners of diesel cars ban shock
  • 10 months gone since govt ‘year 2040’ ban threat
  • Ads interest slump over at Auto Trader

LONDON, England – It’s been almost 10 months since “demonizing diesel” became the new “it” subject in the UK media, sparking speculation of a diesel scrappage scheme and the very future of diesel cars.

The UK government’s recent “clean air report” outlining an intention to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel internal combustion engines (as against those burning ethanol, hydrogen or natural gas) in cars and vans by 2040 has created even greater uncertainty.

KAROLINA EDWARDS-SMAJDA: Image: Auto Trader / Newspress
KAROLINA EDWARDS-SMAJDA: UK Auto Trader’s expert takes a close look at the UK’s “kill diesel” plan and how diesel car sales are (or aren’t) being affected. Image: Auto Trader / Newspress

So, the UK’s largest digital automotive ad mag (55-million cross-platform visits a month) has elected to reveal the effect the the ban plan has had on vehicle-buying behaviour and the wider car market.

DECLINE AND RISE OF DIESEL SEARCHES

On average, 25% of all searches of Auto Trader each month are based on fuel type. It’s telling then, The Corner suggests, that a lot of dieselists with a big investment in their family’s wheels are worried…

In November 2016 71% of car buyers searched Auto Trader for diesel-burners, most of the rest for petrol. Then, the ad mag reports, as the first “kill diesel” announcement came from Secretary for State for Transport Chris Grayling that month, followed by months of negative news media coverage on diesel cars, diesel searches dropped to 54% by May 2017.

Petrol searches gained, rising to 43% that month. Despite this, Auto Trader car-buyers still search more for diesel vehicles than any other fuel type.

From May 2017 diesel searches returned to growth, rising to 56% in June and petrol dropping to 41% – but diesel is still a long way from recovering to November 2016 levels.

READ MORE diesel features on Carman’s  Corner

There was a significant spike in alternative-fuel cars searches on Auto Trader after the July 26 Environment Secretary’s announcement that the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles would end in 2040. That day there was a nearly sevenfold increase in searches for electric cars, 2.5 times more for ethanol, 1.7 times more for hybrid and 1.3 times more for bi-fuel.

Karolina Edwards-Smajda (see image), Auto Trader’s retailer and consumer product director said: “Given the level of coverage, a decline in searches is not surpriseing. Yet, despite the ongoing negative rhetoric, the impact on diesel has been fairly limited up to now (Aug 2017).

The return to growth of diesel searches is testament not only to the resilience of diesel but also to its popularity among car buyers.”

SLOWING IN DIESEL PRICE RISES

The used-vehicle market, Auto Trader reports, is experiencing an increase in average prices. In July 2017 the average price of a used car was £11 780, 4.5% more than the same month in 2016. This growth is the result of a younger market of better-condition vehicles fuelled by the continued growth of new car finance rates in recent years.

Yet, diesel is the only fuel whose month-on-month price increases are slowing. The average year-on-year price increase for diesel used cars was only one percent in July 2017, against a year-on-year price increase of 7.7% for petrol.

Edwards-Smajda continued: “While diesels remain a popular option it’s interesting to see that at a time when the used-vehicle market is experiencing year-on-year growth, the ongoing negative commentary is having slight impact on their retail value.

“Given the timing and that the slowdown only affects diesel, a coincidence seems unlikely. Price is still increasing year-on-year but growth is slowing, suggesting retailers are finding it harder to increase prices.”

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