If 6 years ago diesels were the best-selling engines in Europe, in 2017 it fell below 45%. Analysts have mixed views about the future pace of decline, but all converge on the same conclusion: the diesel engine era sets slowly but surely.
Sales of new diesel engines fell last year in Europe, continuing its decline beginning in 2012. If the absolute diesel peak in Europe was reached in 2011, when 55% of the cars were re-engineered by diesel engines versus 43% on gasoline, 2017 saw a drop in the European diesel market share to 44% according to JATO Dynamics. The descent was most acutely felt in the last 12 months, when diesel lost 5 percent of European market share.
Analysts: diesel engine sales will drop below 40%
Analysts and car manufacturers converge to the same conclusion: the diesel will continue to decline, but forecasts for 2018 differ according to the origin of the analyzes. James Verrier, BorgWarner’s engine department chief, is quoted by Automotive News: “We have reached 50% of the diesel market share for new cars sold in Europe in the middle of the 40-50% segment. Where will the downhill stop? No one knows, probably in the 30-40% area, “he says.
BorgWarner’s expert opinion doubles that of Continental analysts, one of the top automotive suppliers, who say the diesel will still lose a market share that will take the technology to less than 40%.
Christoph Sturmer, an analyst at PwC Autofacts, says 2018 will drive diesel to a European market share of about 40%. “But there is no general diesel state in Europe,” he draws attention. “There are growing doubts about the power of diesel in Germany, there are some doubts in France, but there are many other countries where sales are not affected at all by talks about this technology.”
Sturmer’s opinion is confirmed by the fact that some major European markets that once devoured diesel engines began to find alternatives to gasoline turbochargers and micro-hybrids. This is the case for France: diesel held 72% of the market in 2012, an absolute European record, and today it has reached 48%.
Different views: “Diesel engine sales drop will continue, but at a slow pace”
On the other hand, analysts of Frost & Sullivan and LMC Automotive claim that the projected decrease in 2018 will be lower as the curve will flatter. “Contrators have to push diesel engine sales by 2020 to meet the emissions requirements,” they say.
The diesel downturn began to be felt in Europe in 2012, but it accelerated two and a half years ago with the scandal involving the Volkswagen Group in 2015. In addition, the emission limits required by the European Union and the more or less clear about the future disposal of diesel cars from local authorities in charge of managing some of Europe’s big cities have contributed to the increasingly precarious image of diesel in the continent.
Mercedes: 3 billion EUR investment in diesel technology
On the other side of the barricade, car manufacturers continue to invest in “cleaning up” diesel engines using new technologies to filter out harmful emissions (especially NOx).
After Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche last summer claimed that “it is worth fighting for diesel technology,” Mercedes has announced two four-cylinder diesel engines (internal codes OM654 and OM656) that have been specially developed through a massive investment of € 3 billion to meet the requirements of future European real-time consumption tests (RDE). Moreover, Mercedes-Benz is one of the few brands that experienced an increase in diesel sales in 2017, + 4%, the Germans being second in European diesel sales after the Volkswagen brand.
Another brand that prepares new diesel engines is Ford, which announced the new 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter EcoBlue in the 2018-ready range. The 1.5-liter version will make its debut on the new EcoSport, which Ford builds in Craiova. The new engines use special catalytic converters (SCRs) to make them very competitive in RDE stardard tests.
Renault: “We will sell 50% less diesels in 2022”
There are also auto manufacturers who adapt from trend to trend and rely on alternative solutions. Observing that customers who dropped diesel have generally switched to low-powered turbocharged petrol with the same level of power, Renault’s French and PSA Peugeot-Citroen are trying to re-orientate themselves on the market.
Renault has already announced it will reduce diesel sales by 50% by 2022, eliminating two of the three families of diesel engines in its range. At the same time, the PSA will import from China 100,000 units of three-stroke PureTech gasoline engine annually to meet growing demands in this market area.
Last but not least, the Toyota strategy no longer targets diesel. If the Japanese were forced to introduce diesel in their own range at the beginning of this decade to keep pace with rising demand in Europe, Toyota officials are beginning to completely remove the diesel versions from the list of model options they sell on the continent. The latest example comes from Italy, where Toyota has completely renounced the Yaris, Auris and RAV4 diesel versions, now offering a range of diesel-free cars and SUVs. The strategy will also be doubled in Romania, where Toyota will completely drop diesel on the range of cars this year, after Avensis’s offer out of the offer.