The steady decline of diesel – but it’s still far from dead
Diesel passenger cars and small SUVs have fallen out of favor with Australians over the past 15 years – but large SUVs, 4x4s, utility vehicles and vans are keeping the fuel flame alive.
Introduced to the passenger car market in the 1960s, Australians’ relationship with diesel has been one of ups and downs.
Diesel has long been the fuel of choice among four-wheel drive vehicles and utility vehicles, but among passenger cars and family SUVs its popularity has risen and fallen in recent decades as the efficiency of gasoline engines are improving and hybrid and electric cars are gaining popularity.
In 2006, only 2.6% of all passenger cars sold accepted diesel fuel, compared to 21% of SUVs – figures that peaked at 8.0% for passenger cars in 2011 and 38.9% for SUVs in 2012.
But today, just 4.2% of new passenger cars sold so far this year have been powered by diesel, while fuel accounts for 21.6% of SUV sales – albeit up from share respectively of 3.3 and 19.9% in 2021.
Diesel is still king among light commercial vehicles – accounting for 92.3% of vans and vans sold so far in 2022, up from 48.7% in 2006 – but (almost) everywhere else it’s on the decline.
The slowdown in sales has also led to a drop in the number of diesel cars remaining on sale. BMW and Audi are the latest automakers to offer diesel engines in passenger cars – at any cost – while the best-selling Toyota RAV4 swapped its diesel option for a petrol-electric hybrid in 2019.
Let’s take a look at the new diesel cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles you can still buy – and how many consumers still do.
Note: The sales mix percentages included below are for the first five months of 2022, unless otherwise specified. Stock-outs and production delays mean they may reflect supply rather than pure customer demand.
Of the three Australian vehicle types, passenger cars have seen the biggest decline in diesel popularity.
A diesel engine can no longer be installed in a sedan – and it is only offered in sedans and station wagons by two brands, BMW and Audi.
Audi offers diesel Allroad station wagon versions of the A4 and A6 – which account for 2 and 11 percent of each model’s sales respectively since the start of 2021 – as well as the A8 sedan, which accounts for 50 percent of sales.
Meanwhile, 31% of BMW 5 Series big cars sold so far this year have been 530d diesels – helped by fleet deals with NSW and Victoria Police – while 11% of outgoing 7 Series flagships over the same period are 730d diesels.
So far in 2022, diesel has accounted for 73% of Hyundai Staria sales, 5.6% of LDV G10 sales and 90% of Kia Carnival sales – although the latter are determined by supply, as the diesel generally represented less more than 50% of Carnival’s sales.
Only two small SUVs can be equipped with diesel engines: the Jeep Compass in Trailhawk form and the outgoing BMW X1, of which only 3% sold this year have been sDrive18d diesels. The new X1 due later this year will not offer a diesel option.
With a luxury brand, diesel accounts for 4% of BMW X3 sales and 8.4% of Genesis GV70 sales – but 47% more important of Audi Q5 sales since the start of 2021, with the SQ5 TDI accounting for 14% Sales. the total alone. All Alpina XD3s are diesels.
The diesel is also available in the Mercedes-Benz G-Class – but accounted for no deliveries in 2022 as Mercedes focuses on clearing back orders for the AMG G63 flagship.
Diesel power dominates in utility and pickup trucks, with only a few versions – usually fleet-focused base grades – of some models even offering the choice of gasoline engines.
The only mid-size vans offering a choice between petrol and diesel are the Mitsubishi Triton and Toyota HiLux – although petrol is only available on the base “traffic controller” model and is only one for cent of Triton’s sales, or more. than expected 18% of HiLux sales.
American full-size pickups more readily offer gasoline, but only on the “1500” versions, with the heavy-duty “2500” and “3500” models generally sticking to diesel. Heavy-duty models account for 13% of Ram sales, or 26% of Chevrolet Silverados.
Only three vans of all sizes can be equipped with a diesel engine: the LDV G10, the Renault Kangoo and the Volkswagen Caddy. While diesel accounts for 92% of G10 sales, it only accounts for 27% of Kangoos.