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Diesel sales rise as cars become scarce

Under the pump: New-car buyers facing stock shortages and supply delays are bucking the recent trend away from diesel power.

Stock shortages tempting buyers back into diesel cars, as hybrids and plug-ins rise


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27 Jun 2022

DOOMSAYERS who thought that diesel was seeing the end of its days may be surprised to note that sales are actually increasing.


While it appears that the fuel is back in vogue, there is more influence from the state of the market than personal preference.


Diesel passenger car sales are up by four per cent in the first five months of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021, mainly because buyers facing lengthy new-car delivery delays are becoming less fussy about what they’re buying.


Prior to 2021, the passenger car diesel market was in decline, falling 48 per cent in the period 2018 to 2021.


This fall reflects the global disenchantment toward diesels, initially because of the reaction to car-makers – mainly Volkswagen – being nabbed for dishonesty over emission and fuel data.


Secondly, urban air quality concerns highlighted the emissions of diesel-fuelled vehicles despite their lower carbon footprint when compared with the equivalent petrol models.


Now, with new-car choices hampered by availability, buyers are opting – perhaps reluctantly – for a diesel.


It is the same with the SUV sector. Diesel sales are up by about 2000 units (or four per cent) in the first five months of 2022 compared with 2021.


Like the passenger car market, sales of diesel SUVs slid 20 per cent between 2018 and 2021 before rebounding on the demand for pretty much anything available with four wheels.


However, unlike the diesel market for passenger cars, the trend for petrol-fuelled cars is heading down.


In the year-to-date May figures for 2022, petrol sales of cars slipped 20 per cent compared with the same period in 2021. In annual sales, the difference between the 351,057 petrol cars sold in 2018 and the sales in the whole of 2021 was a whopping 47 per cent slide.


SUVs running on petrol fared a lot better as buyer preferences shifted toward an SUV over a passenger car but again because they were taking what was available.


Petrol SUV sales in 2021 were up 4.3 per cent or almost 16,200 units.


Underlying the apparent pressing need to get into any new vehicle possible is the clear upward trends of EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).


In the whole of 2020, 4369 electric passenger cars were sold, up about 15 per cent on 2019. Data for 2019 and 2018 (and before) grouped EVs and PHEVs together and, to further complicate the data, did not include dominant EV player Tesla.


EV passenger car sales were up 68 per cent in 2021. This was accelerated by burgeoning sales of the more affordable Tesla Model 3 (the only model from Tesla on sale) and new EVs introduced by other manufacturers, including the MG ZS EV.


The SUV EV sector is also increasing strongly with 2654 examples sold this year to date (not including Tesla as it is not yet delivering its Model Y electric SUV in Australia) compared with the same period in 2021, representing a 63 per cent increase.


No surprise then that hybrids and PHEVs are also in demand, although sales could have been substantially more had stock been available. This is especially true of the Toyota RAV4 that has demand pushing supply out to up to 12 months and beyond.


Hybrid SUV sales for the five months of 2022 compared with 2021 are up 18 per cent while hybrid passenger car sales are stagnant, showing 11,835 units sold in the five months to May 31.

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