The Downfall of Diesel Vehicles

The Downfall of Diesel Vehicles

Diesel fuel vehicles have fallen slightly in popularity to 45% of Australians saying they would consider buying a diesel fuel vehicle, down from 50% recorded two years ago. Australians who mostly drive diesel vehicles shows 1.13 million residing in capital cities, and another 1.10 million in country areas.

The car industry is changing. With demand for diesel vehicles in Australia declining, many experts are questioning the longevity of the diesel industry. This has been caused by:

  • Higher initial purchase price
  • Increased prices at service stations
  • Questionable reliability
  • Environmental impact
  • Worldwide effects of Dieselgate
  • The influence of the European market

Let’s discuss some of the above points in a bit more detail.

Higher initial purchase price

Car manufacturers justify charging higher prices on diesel models as fewer diesel vehicles are produced in comparison to petrol counterparts. Additionally, diesel cars are often fitted with heavy-duty parts or have a more complex build and as such are more expensive to manufacture.

However, although there is a higher purchase price, diesel vehicles often sustain a higher resale value as well. This can be especially true for diesel vehicles with a significant number of km’s under the belt.

So if you do decide to purchase a diesel car, when it’s time to sell or trade in, you may be able to recover a higher resale price compared to a petrol vehicle of similar vintage. There is still a positive perception within the Australian market that diesel engines have greater longevity and reliability after extended use.

Higher prices at the bowser

Oil and petrol prices seem to be increasingly volatile and the price fluctuations seem to be particularly exaggerated at Australian bowsers. More often than not, diesel will be priced higher than petrol.

However, the price per litre shouldn’t be the only factor in calculations. The benefit of using diesel is how economical it can be when it comes to fuel consumption. Often diesel owners can expect to save roughly 10 to 15% on their fuel bills in the long run – compared to owners of petrol cars.

Diesel models get more range from a tank – well over 1,000 kilometres in some cars – meaning fewer trips to the service station.

Questionable reliability

Although diesel engines often carry a reputation for being able to keep on keeping on, the overall statistics show that diesel engines can offer reduced reliability in some scenarios.

According to 2018 UK data published on MotorEasy, diesel cars (3-8 years old) are three times more likely to breakdown than petrol models. The only brands that produced higher reliability with their diesel options compared to petrol were BMW, Audi, Skoder, Lexus, MINI, Peugeot, and Porsche.

The same study showed that diesel vehicles typically cost 20% more to repair. The highest repair and service costs were with manufacturers Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Kia, and Mazda.

“Diesels experience many more small problems than petrol cars,” claimed by Duncan McClure Fisher, founder of MotorEasy. “They are less reliable and, when a big item goes wrong, it costs a lot more to put right.”

It must be noted that this data is from a UK study where it’s likely that, for the most part, vehicles are used for shorter trips and urban driving.

Environmental factors

There are typically more pollutants in diesel exhaust fumes before any filtration is considered.  One of the ways to deal with the more harmful particles is using exhaust filtration systems, which are increasingly standard in new diesel vehicles. However good these filters may be, many diesel cars get a worse environmental rating than their petrol counterparts.

The real issue when it comes to diesel cars and their environmental footprint is the particulate matter. This matter along with nitrogen oxide (NO2) and dioxide (NOx) have been reported to trigger health conditions such as inflammation of the lungs (asthma and bronchitis), increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as lower birth weight and smaller head circumference in babies.

Countries have started tightening emission requirements for diesel car manufacturers. Companies have been able to comply with these new regulations by adding a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). DPFs remove visible smoke with many models removing over 95% of the mass of smoke.

The way DPFs work, is the smoke is trapped in a ceramic matrix and accumulates until the car’s computer determines its time to clean it out through a ‘regeneration cycle’. While the engine is running a small amount of fuel is moved to the combustion chambers (in the engine), this triggers heat and oxygen to act as a catalyst to burn off the accumulated soot.

So if you are buying a diesel model manufactured post-2007, it really is no ‘dirtier’ or harmful than their petroleum counterparts. In fact, diesel run engines emit less carbon dioxide than their petrol counterparts (although not by much).

Worldwide Dieselgate

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) found VW cars were being sold in America with a “defeat device” (or software) in diesel engines detecting test scenarios and therefore changing their performance accordingly to forge results. Once this information was found the German car giant admitted to cheating the emissions tests.

Since then, VW has admitted that approximately 11 million cars worldwide had been fitted with the known “defeat device.” This device enables the engines to switch to a test mode when being run under laboratory conditions. Once out on the road, the engines would switch modes. The investigation found the engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above US regulations.

If you would like to find out more about the investigation and effects of the VW scandal, view this BBC article.

Although this was only one car manufacturer, the “dieselgate” scandal drew a lot of negative attention to diesel cars in general.

Influence from the European car market

The news and cause of diesel’s unpredictable future in Australia is mostly caused by current events occurring in Europe. There are a number of upcoming legislation (surrounding emissions) signalling an end to carbon-dense fuel and shifting to a favourable future of petrol/electric hybrids, LPG, hydrogen fuel cells, and battery-electric technology.

In 2016, mayors of Paris, Madrid, and Athens all vowed to rid diesel vehicles on city roads by 2025. While this is an inconvenience to car owners, it’s also a disruption to commercial vehicles (often diesel-powered). Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world and one of the most polluted also vowed to do the same. Diesel engines may soon be the ‘dinosaur engine’ in the not too distant future.

While buyer trends in Australia are their own beast, it is still interesting to note buyer trends overseas. In UK for example, motoringresearch.com reports a drop by as much as 40% over the last 2 years for used diesel car searches.

Europe and UK have some influence on Australia’s buying patterns in the car industry but such a rapid demise of demand for diesel vehicles looks less imminent here.

So should I still buy a diesel car?

The answer is… maybe. There are still some positives you may want to consider.

If you are towing regularly, diesel engines towing the same capacities as petrol engines can often do it with less stress and less downshifting.

If you are looking for an off-the-line pushing power diesel vehicles are the way to go. Diesel cars peak torque often comes on at under 2,000rpm. This power makes the engine suitable for providing peak pushing power right off the line. Therefore for most urban driving, getting off the line is going to be easier with a diesel. Plus you won’t need to rev the engine hard.

Those who are long-distance driving and wanting to maximise on their mileage often turn to diesel. This is due to the often better ratio of fuel to kilometres, which has been mentioned above.

If you are environmentally minded and tossing up between petrol and diesel then modern diesel engines can even come out on top – especially if you tow regularly.

However, if you are particularly concerned about the impact on the environment then you may want to look at investing in an electric or hybrid car.

To answer more of your questions about diesel engines have a chat with the team at Car Search Brokers. Our motoring experts will answer your questions and provide independent advice on the pros and cons of all makes and models on the market.

Posted on February 20, 2019 in Blog