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Market Insight: Diesel sales in Aus defy global trends

New appeal: The prospect of holidaying at home has helped contribute to increased diesel LCV and SUV sales.

Rush to local motoring holidays a boon to local diesel ute and SUV sales


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26 Apr 2021

LISTEN to the negativity about diesel cars and dirty emissions over the past decade and you’d think it was all over for future diesel-fuelled vehicles.


But the COVID-19 pandemic brought a rush of demand for new and used vehicles, pushing up the sales and elevating the strong dual-cab ute sector – the vast majority being diesel powered – to eradicate any previous misgivings about the fuel.


In the 2020 calendar year, diesel-fuelled passenger cars copped a 41.2 per cent plunge in sales compared with the previous year, while diesel SUVs also dropped, down 14.8 per cent while the light-commercial vehicle (LCV) sector also fell with diesel sales down 10.1 per cent.


The data is swayed to the period from March – in line with the pandemic – through to November, at which point vehicle sales rebounded.


Buyers sought new vehicles with many specifying vehicles for motoring holidays, particularly for towing which also meant more sales for diesel vehicles.


The result in 2020 was that while the combined sales of diesel vehicles in the passenger, SUV and LCV fell over the 12 months by a combined 12.5 per cent, the result was weighted to the falls in the middle of the year.


But then diesel found its strength as new-vehicle supply began to free up and buyers remained convinced that a domestic motoring holiday was going to be the new normal.


In the first three months of 2021, the diesel passenger car, SUV and LCV sector jumped 20.7 per cent over the same period in 2020. Breaking that down, diesel-fuelled passenger cars jumped 17.6 per cent over the first quarter of 2020 while SUV diesels were up 13.4 per cent, more than tripling the 59,144 units of cars sold with diesel engines.


This year in the different engine categories, only petrol-fuelled cars are down in numbers with an 11.4 per cent drop in line with overall passenger car sales that are down 8.9 per cent. The other engine sectors for passenger cars are all up, buoyed by advancing sales in EVs, hybrids, PHEVs and the predominantly European-sourced brands with diesels.


Much of the increase in diesel sales has been in the LCV sector, where booming dual-cab sales have been bolstered by owners focused on private vehicle use, rather than traditional commercial use.


Of the 20 models of 4x4 utes, only two are solely petrol – Jeep Gladiator and Chevrolet Silverado – while the Ram truck range is predominantly petrol-powered.


The 10 models available as 4x2 utes are almost exclusively diesel.


Sales of the 4x4 utes are up 23.2 per cent this year while the 4x2 sector is up 16.8 per cent, with Toyota Hilux 4x4 (all diesel) leading the sales ladder this year with 10,876 units sold, ahead of the Ford Ranger 4x4 at 9115 units.


Diesel-fuelled rivals are also strong sellers, with the Mitsubishi Triton 4x4 at 5506 sales in the first quarter of this year; the Mazda BT-50 at 3083; and the Nissan Navara at 2495.


So despite the sliding trend in Europe in line with tougher emissions, diesels aren’t going anywhere in a hurry in Australia except up.

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