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Diesel dreams

Distillate diet: BMW's new 520d oil-burner.

BMW Oz boss predicts 80 per cent of cars will be diesel Down Under in 2013

BMW logo14 Feb 2008

By PHILIP LORD

BMW Group Australia managing director Guenther Seemann believes the make-up of the Australian passenger car market will undergo a radical transformation in the next five years, with a massive swing against petrol-engine cars in favour of diesels.

“In five years, 80 per cent of the passenger market will be diesel,” he told GoAuto last week. “(The take-up of diesel) will be like Europe.” The BMW chief said the remaining Australian car manufacturers would all need to offer diesel engines in their locally built vehicles.

“It will be tough to survive (without diesels),” he said. “I believe they will bring diesel engines into the market.”

 center imageLeft: BMW Group Australia managing director Guenther Seemann.

Both Holden and Ford have confirmed they are working on diesel engines for their large cars. While the decline of the large-car segment is well documented, VFACTS figures show a sharp rise in popularity of diesels in other segments – albeit within a country dominated by petrol-engine sales.

Last month, 1849 diesel vehicles were sold compared with 1015 in January 2007. Petrol-engine sales remained largely static, with 29,019 sold last month versus 29,263 for the previous January.

Despite the diesel growth, the 2007 annual sales figures of private car and SUV sales showed that just 9.5 per cent were diesel.

It is unsurprising that BMW is upbeat about diesel. In January, one out of every three cars the company sold was a diesel, while in the X5 range the diesel models accounted for 74 per cent of sales.

Each model line in the BMW range has at least one diesel model, with the exception of the 6 and 7 series and the Z4.

However, Mr Seemann said that the replacement for the current 7 Series due in 2009 would have a diesel variant, as would the X6 due later this year. He added that BMW might expand its diesel engines even further across the range “if the market wants it”. The 6 Series already has a diesel engine available in Europe.

Mr Seemann explained that the typical BMW diesel owner was unconcerned about the cleanliness of diesel outlets. He also said the cost of diesel does not reduce the “cost benefit equation” as diesel fuel typically matches premium unleaded prices in most metropolitan areas.

According to Mr Seemann, more important than cost savings is that “these BMW owners like the torque and fuel range” of diesels.

Despite his predictions of a massive turn-around in diesel sales in the short to medium term, Mr Seemann also conceded that diesel domination would be short-lived. In the long term, he said: “Hydrogen is the only solution.”

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