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UK diesel car market to be “decimated” in 4 years, due to EV laws

Diesel car market share will fall to as little as three per cent in the next four years due to the “legislative direction” around zero-emissions vehicles

Diesel pump

The UK market share of diesel cars is expected to fall to as low as three per cent in the next four years, if projections by industry analysts are to be believed. Cox Automotive, a firm specialising in technical, financial and logistical support in the car industry, has released its four-year market forecast in which it’s stated that the market share of diesel cars will be halved by 2028, falling from six per cent and just over 121,000 units in 2024.

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That’s not all, as the experts at Cox Automotive also predict that rising sales of BEVs (battery-electric vehicles) and hybrids will see the market share of petrol cars fall by 12 per cent in the same period, from 51 per cent of cars sold and just over one million units in the past year.

Cox Automotive insight director, Philip Nothard, blames this fall-off in the popularity of petrol and diesel cars on “multiple factors, not least legislative direction”. This is in reference to the government’s Zero-Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate, which came into force at the beginning of this year. Essentially, manufacturers now have to ensure that a minimum percentage of their new car sales is made up of zero-emission vehicles. They risk being fined as much as £15,000 for each non-EV car sold over the target, which is set to grow year-on-year.

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In reaction to the ZEV mandate legislation, as well as diesel cars generally falling out of favour with private buyers, many manufacturers have now decided to pull diesel powertrains from their line-ups altogether. Nothard explains that “the nought-to-four-year-old diesel market has been decimated since 2020, meaning buyers in that space are quickly running out of options.”

Diesel powertrains were, for a long time, largely reserved for commercial vehicles, such as vans and trucks. However, after the EU made an agreement in the mid nineties aimed at curbing CO2 emissions by incentivising the sales of diesel cars, the UK diesel market exploded to nearly 1.3m vehicles at its peak in 2016.

Nowadays, buying incentives are almost exclusively reserved for electric and hybrid vehicles, although these tax breaks for company car drivers are set to end in April 2025. From April 2025, Benefit-in-Kind tax rates for electric cars will increase by 1 per cent per year, from the current two per cent rate, all the way up to a maximum of 20 per cent.

Regardless, the sales of new diesel cars will not be allowed after 2035, as this is when the government’s recently-postponed ban is set to come into effect. While used diesel cars will be able to be bought, sold and driven, all new vehicles must have a zero-emissions powertrain from this date forth.

Are you looking to buy a new diesel car? Let us know in the comments...

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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