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Diesel and LPG leaving hybrids behind

Comeback: Ford expects its E-Gas LPG Falcon will get a sales boost from fleets, thanks to the addition of electronic stability control.

Diesel leads LPG and then hybrid as Australia's top-selling alternative-fuel cars

General News logo24 Apr 2009

DIESEL recently regained its position as the best performing of the alternative drivetrains, although LPG is set to kick along soon.

In the middle of 2008, diesel was leaping ahead at more than 40 per cent a month, while hybrids and LPG cars (essentially the Falcon E-Gas) improved more than 20 per cent in June.

Interestingly, sales of petrol cars were already shrinking by the middle of the year due to a gradual rise in fuel prices, while diesel continued to climb until June, before crashing into negative territory in October.

Meanwhile, Ford’s E-Gas Falcon (the only LPG car included in the VFACTS figures) continued with strong growth, most often above 20 per cent for the second half of the year.

In fact, the E-Gas Falcon continued to grow right through the first months of the global financial crisis, but plunged into deficit in March as large cars generally took another hit. Ford is confident, however.

“We anticipate that the addition of dynamic stability control to our E-Gas range – which also brings with it a five-star ANCAP safety rating – will have a positive impact on LPG passenger sales, particularly to non-private customers, in the coming months,” said Ford spokeswoman Sinead McAlary.

Diesel sales plunged in the second half of 2008 as the financial crisis hit. High-end diesel sales were probably hit by the pending luxury car tax, which would have deterred a few sales among prestige car buyers.

Peugeot reports that diesels hit a high of 59 per cent of sales in March 2008 and averaged 53 per cent for the year. Since then, they have averaged 48 per cent of sales, but Peugeot does not believe the diesel story is fading.

“Given the generally higher admission price for diesel models, the fact that these variants have consistently averaged more sales than our petrol models … indicates that a lot of customers recognise the inherent benefits in Peugeot’s diesel technology – such as greatly improved fuel efficiency, significantly reduced C02 emissions and higher torque outputs,” spokesman Mark McCartney said.

Diesel sales have improved steadily since then, although, oddly, it looks as if diesel buyers may be thinking short term and buying long term.

From December on, the gap to the petrol price has steadily narrowed and diesel buyers have closed the gap to the point where March sales were down only 8 per cent on the previous March.

At that point, petrol car sales were still down 19 per cent and LPG sales down 27 per cent.

Any financial crisis makes people more aware of the price of everything, and this appears to be hurting sales of hybrids, which carry a heavier premium than diesels.

After running at growth rates around 20 per cent in the June quarter of 2008, hybrid sales were on the back foot for the rest of the year, apart from a modest spike in November.

This year has been no better and hybrid sales in March were down a whopping 39 per cent from the previous March.

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