Embattled diesel facing uphill struggle – yet diesel tech holds its own in Europe

As we continually report on the apparent decline of diesel, Forbes reports a 45% shrinking in the size of the European diesel market is predicted between by 2025 from its 2012 size.

The rise of hybrids, electric and cleaner petrol cars play a role, however incidents like the reappearance of smog in major European cities, sparking new public health emergencies, as well as the VW emissions-fixing scandal have all contributed to a dip in sales- by as much as 17% in the USA- where even diesel’s remaining backers admit the market is sliding into nothing. In diesel-friendly Europe the reputation of diesel suffers repeated blows from news media and environmental lobbyists, though currently declining- it slid 2% of the market share in the first 10 months this year- the Automotive Industry Data organisation predicts it will hold steady above 40% by 2018 and 33% by 2025. In Europe, it’s likely that should the market share prove to fall below these predictions the industry will be in serious trouble.

The lack of responsiveness to customer concerns might betray some of the flaws diesel will need to overcome if it wants to survive- emissions analysis shows that 97% of diesels manufactured since 2009 exceed emissions limits when outside the lab. However the cost of increasingly complex emissions-catching technology is itself likely to drive down sales- with Toyota powertrain boss Koei Saga suggesting hybrids could cost half as much as a near-future diesel- although he tempered his prediction by stressing emerging markets will take up some of the slack, buying up volumes of cheaper, less environmentally safe diesels while the West turns to eco-friendly cars.

With the pressure mounting on diesel makers in Europe and the US, it’s perhaps unsurprising that savvy brand bosses are exploring alternatives. VW just announced an ambitious new goal- to be the world leader in electric cars, curiously setting the goal of 2025 for their target- the same year many European city governments earlier this year suggested would be the deadline for diesels to be off the streets, with Germany envisioning a total ban by 2030. Clearly VW- themselves hit hardest by the emissions scandal that rocked their US market share including a crushing $15 billion settlement with the US government in October, are attempting to seize back the initiative to avoid being judged solely by their bad behaviour. Whether diesel technology itself will be able to claw back to dominance in the near future remains to be seen, but at the moment it seems like an uphill struggle faces the car once touted to save us from dangerous pollution.