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4 million drivers want a diesel car next, but doubts are making them hit the brakes

25 September 2019

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While the anti-diesel rhetoric has turned a number of people away from diesel cars, an estimated 4m drivers remain convinced it is the right option for them and will be opting for diesel car next (13%), according to research from the Britain Under the Bonnet report from Close Brothers Motor Finance. However, concerns about taxes and the ability to sell diesel cars have risen and are holding consumers back from making a purchase.

This comes at a time when car sales have suffered in the past two years, blamed on a global economic slowdown, political instability and confusion over fuel type. New diesel sales alone are 19.3% down so far this year . 

Over a quarter of diesel drivers (27%) said they were holding off buying a car this year due to uncertainty caused by changing diesel legislation. The same proportion were put off by the uncertainty of the cost of owning a diesel car, while a third (33%) had concerns about the increasing cost of fuel.

In addition, there were concerns from a third of diesel drivers (33%) that they would have to pay more tax for having a diesel car, while 19% feared they would not be able to sell their car or trade it in for a new one.

The shift in trend has been felt by dealers too. Half (52%) have experienced a noticeable increase in the number of customers wanting more support when considering purchasing a diesel car. A third (32%) have had to change stock to react to changes in the diesel market, with 37% reporting fewer diesel sales.
The research also found that fuel type was now the second most important consideration for drivers considering buying a new car, taking over from how economical the car is to run. The top concern was the price of the car. 

Seán Kemple, Director of Sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance commented: “Low-Co2 diesel cars were not long ago hailed as the best option for drivers. This was the fuel that cleverly managed to offer lower fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, and running costs for higher miles-per-gallon fuel economy.  And then, all of a sudden, we went from one extreme to the other, with an over-simplified message from the Government effectively demonising all diesel cars. The UK has since fallen out of love with diesel.

“Yet, the problems with an oversimplified message are made clear in these results. A diesel car may well be the right option – both economically and environmentally speaking - for some drivers, particularly those who regularly do long distances. Over 4 million drivers remain convinced it is the best choice for them but are becoming increasingly unsure thanks to conflicting messages. Rather than providing impetus in the decision to buy a car, the Government’s message is in fact doing the opposite. Without clarification, we will continue to see car sales fall in light of so much uncertainty. 

“Clearly, the next couple of years presents an opportunity to win the trust of an unsure market. As confusion around fuel type increases, so will consumers’ reliance on trustworthy advice, and this is where the expertise of the dealer comes into play.”


Britain Under the Bonnet methodology 
The figures in this report are based on Close Brothers Motor Finance’s own data, a telephone survey of over 200 UK car dealers undertaken between November and December 2018, and on a consumer survey of over 2,000 UK drivers, weighted to be nationally representative. The survey was conducted in November 2018, and November 2017 by Censuswide. All statistics in the report, unless stated otherwise, are taken from the aforementioned sources.

Methodology for 4m drivers figure: There are 31,520,000 cars licensed for use of the roads in Great Britain, according to the Department for Transport. 12.8% of this figure is 4,034,560.

[1] SMMT Statistics for August 2019 https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/car-registrations/
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