The death of diesel: can struggling industry woo back consumers?

(The Guardian, 4 Mar 2018) Amid fears about pollution, penalties and bans, buyers are abandoning diesel cars in droves.

No customers were troubling the Jaguar showroom in Welwyn Garden City on Friday, at the start of what is usually its busiest month.

Even one with a car on order had not turned up in the snow, said Mark Lavery, chief executive of Cambria Automobiles, looking at a £75,000 Jaguar coupe: “She doesn’t want to spoil an F-type with all that salt on the roads.”

The unseasonal weather will only be a blip on sales: a bigger worry for the industry is the dark, persistent cloud over the future of diesel. The bottom is falling out of the market, to the point where one of Lavery’s managing directors couldn’t persuade his own mother to buy one: “His mum is 74, has driven a diesel for the last 15 years and has now changed it for a petrol one – a higher carbon-emitting, more polluting car.”

Yet while diesel vehicles were pushed by the industry and government on the promise of cutting carbon dioxide emissions, the world is now more urgently addressing its dirty corollary: the NOx emissions which have fouled urban areas and contribute to 40,000-50,000 premature deaths a year in the UK alone from air pollution.

The drumbeat against diesel picked up pace this week as judges decided that German cities, in the heart of Europe’s biggest car market, have the right to ban diesels on their streets, and Rome’s mayor proposed an outright ban from 2024, a year before Paris expects the same.

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The Guardian, 4 Mar 2018: The death of diesel: can struggling industry woo back consumers?