There has been little change to sales of used diesel cars in the UK, despite a drop in new diesel registrations and a plethora of bad press for the fuel in the media over recent months.
That’s the view of car sales analysts as new figures reveal on-going confidence around the economic benefits of diesel in the used car market.
New diesel sales slumped in Britain by 17 per cent last year but figures from online car retailer BuyaCar.co.uk reveal that diesel’s popularity amongst used car buyers has barely changed. Almost half of used cars sold on the site last year were diesel-powered.
Earlier this month the Auto Trader Retail Price index revealed that the price of second hand diesel cars actually rose by an average of two per cent in the last year.
These latest figures come despite the autumn budget when the Chancellor raised taxes for brand new diesel cars but left rates for existing models level with petrol cars.
Analysts at BuyaCar.co.uk believe used car buyers are more likely to ignore the warnings over penalties for diesel emissions and concentrate on daily fuel economy, which still makes diesels cheaper to run for many drivers.
Less than a 3 per cent switch
Diesel new car sales declined in 2017 more than three times as severely as the overall market, falling 17 per cent compared with an overall market reduction of 5.6 per cent.
But diesel used car sales for online motor retail specialists BuyaCar.co.uk stayed buoyant last year and still accounted for 44.1 per cent of the business’s total in 2017.
This represents a switch toward other fuel types by BuyaCar.co.uk’s used car customers of less than three per cent compared with the previous year.
Whether BuyaCar.co.uk’s strong used diesel car sales performance reflects national used sales figures will not be known until official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders are released on February 14.
There are signs that future used car buyers are happier to stick with diesel than those intending to buy a new car next time.
More than 1,300 motorists told BuyaCar.co.uk about their future purchase intentions and the research makes grim reading for the future fortunes of new diesel cars. But the negative view of diesel is less pronounced among people who intend to buy used next time.
Nearly four out of five future new car customers say they will change fuel type. But among those who intend to buy a used car next time more than a third are planning to stick with diesel.
Managing Director of BuyaCar.co.uk, Austin Collins, said: “The stronger confidence in diesel among tomorrow’s used car buyers has been an interesting discovery and confirms our own used car sales performance during 2017 which saw rising sales overall and diesel’s share changing very little.
“In 2016 diesels accounted for 46.8 per cent of our total sales. In 2017 diesel sales shot up by almost as much as petrol cars and ended the year still representing a hefty 44.1 per cent of our total.
“When you compare that with the official national new car sales data, which showed new diesel car registrations collapsing at three times the rate of the overall new car market decline it suggests much greater confidence in the used diesel market.
“Our research into future buying intentions confirms this, with significantly more used car buyers planning to choose diesel again, compared to the intentions of new car customers.
“It seems that used car buyers are perhaps a little bit more canny about the undoubtedly strong economic case that still exists for many motorists to stick with diesel, despite increasing taxation and other penalties designed to encourage take-up of other fuel types.
“The apparent collapse in consumer confidence around new diesel cars bears all the hallmarks of a panic that isn’t necessarily justified by events in the real world.
“What Jaguar Land Rover recently called ‘the demonisation of diesel’ has also led to the unintended consequence of a net rise in the average CO2 emissions of new cars sold, caused by the consumer swing back to petrol engines.”
“Our own sales performance and research into consumer buying intentions suggests that a significant segment of buyers are perhaps a little more canny in making up their own minds rather than be carried along on a tide of anti-diesel sentiment.
“Used car buyers in particular are looking beyond the headlines and appear to be prepared to do the maths to ensure they make the most economically sensible choice for their particular circumstances.”
The decline of new diesel sales has left dealers and manufacturers scrambling to re-engage with car buyers and, according to Andrew Hooks, COO of car-buying site Carwow, the plethora of offers available to customers means opting for diesel could still be a smart choice for consumers: “New, low emission diesel engines are can still be a clever option for savvy car buyers. The negative headlines that beset diesels last year have led to the industry coming up with a raft of offers in order to re-engage buyers.
“So not only are EURO 6 compliant diesel cars – i.e cars registered from 1st September 2015 – actually far less polluting than the headlines would have us believe, they have never had a more attractive price tag.
“Following successful scrappage schemes launched in September last year – which were aimed at getting older more polluting vehicles off the road – the industry has continued with efforts to re-engage buyers. 2018 has seen manufacturers deliver a fresh wave of new year incentives and offers. Generally speaking, the traditionally significant price difference between petrol and diesel models has been cut by around a third.
“Manufacturers are helping car-buyers access clean, new diesel cars with generous deposit contributions ahead of plate-change too. For example, BMW are offering a £2,750 deposit contribution towards their 1 Series 120d M Sport, whereas a 120i (petrol) M Sport is available with just £750 deposit contribution.
“So, effectively, when you buy on finance – which is increasingly the way people are choosing to buy – the diesel version offers a greater upfront saving before any dealership discounting is taken into account.
“The newest diesel models are cleaner and compliant with clean air laws. For motorists covering long distances, the fuel efficiency of diesel continues to be the number one attraction in convincing them that despite the bad press it has had of late, it’s the best option for them.”