The fall in diesel car sales is nothing to do with Brexit

Car sales rose well against the background of a falling pound in the year before the Brexit vote, and rose strongly for the first nine months after the Brexit vote when the pound fell further. Since April 2017 diesel  car sales have fallen sharply, whilst petrol and electric car sales have risen but not by enough to offset all the fall in diesels. This has taken place against the background of the pound rising against the dollar and the yen and stabilising against the Euro which has been strong against all currencies.  This history shows it was not the Brexit vote that caused the change in the market for diesels.

The SMMT and the media do accept that tax changes and a different mood  towards diesels account for some of the fall. They should remember that the April 2017 budget increased VED strongly for dearer new cars. Presumably the intention was to cut sales of higher priced cars, and it certainly worked. There are also discussions about further taxes and bans on diesel cars in various towns and cities. This is leading some potential buyers to put off a decision pending greater clarity over whether modern cleaner diesels will be allowed in all places in the UK and what the tax regime for them will be.  April also saw the tightening of new car lending by the authorities which added to the problems in the car showrooms.


  1. jerry
    January 5, 2018

    ….but the fail in overall cars sales might be, although it is more likely to be due to the on-going miss-management of the UK economy, such as the continual rise in stealth and/or indirect taxes rather than Brexit per se.

    1. Know-Dice
      January 5, 2018

      Could be that people have fallen out of love with PCPs

  2. Lifelogic
    January 5, 2018

    Indeed the government has created much uncertainty. So the sensible thing to do is to keep running your old one. Running a second hand car (taken in the round with manufacturing included) is often far greener than manufacturing and running a new one (even if it does do a little less MPG).

    The new ones are usually over complex, less reliable and far more expensive to maintain too. Electric cars really do not work yet (for most people) in the real world yet and are very expensive, over light (so less safe), depreciate rapidly and are not very good for the environment either then energy still has to be generated, distributed and the expensive short life battery manufactured. When they start to tax them fairly (and cut the absurd subsidies) they will be even worse value.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 5, 2018

      To be really green run a smallish old car, drive it gently with gentle acceleration and braking, run it to the end of its useful life and try to avoid unnecessary journeys (or combine them sensibly).

      Far greener than buying an expensive new one and far cheaper too.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 5, 2018

        Of course the government will eventually kill this sensible & green approach by taxing older cars off the road or just by banning them from city centres. Yet another tax and inconvenience for the public. Will someone please save us from the greencrap religion (essentially just a bogus justification for higher taxes and more government regulation) and the overbearing over taxing state. Can we return to rational science and engineering and the government just doing the very few thinks they can actually do better than individuals.

      2. Leslie Singleton
        January 5, 2018

        Dear Lifelogic–One man’s “useful life” makes another’s “old banger”–Without somehow (except it is impossible) defining “useful life” you are not saying much

        1. Lifelogic
          January 5, 2018

          Keep running it until the repairs bill gets larger than the cost buying a better (second hand) replacement. Unless you do a large mileage they tiny fuel saving of a new car are usually not a significant saving – relative to depreciation, interest and the higher maintenance costs or a new more complex car.

        2. jerry
          January 5, 2018

          @Leslie Singleton; It pains me to say this, Mr Lifelogic is actually talking much sense for once!

          Also, one man’s old banger is another’s Classic Car, even those without DVLA’s VHI VED/MOT classification.

    2. Bob
      January 5, 2018


      “new ones are usually over complex, less reliable and far more expensive to maintain”

      Correct, and they rarely include a full size spare wheel, so a puncture which used to be a minor inconvenience can now be unnecessarily traumatic.

      Agree with your comments that running and maintaining an older car can be a greener and more economically sensible option, but car finance plans entice people to drive shiny new cars they can’t really afford just to “keep up with the Joneses”.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 5, 2018

        Exactly and they like to be seen in a shiny new car. Second hand cars and a good honest mechanic are a relative bargain. Often safer too as over light cars and smaller cars are generally rather less safe in crashes.

      2. Lifelogic
        January 6, 2018

        The reason for no spare tyre is to save a little weight to meet the misguided co2 limits. This is also why the cars have other practical defects (engines to small & gearing not ideal for everyday use). Also being lighter can be rather less safe for occupants too. Especially if they have to wait at the side of the road for the breakdown truck for hours to fix the tyre.

        Similar defects in houses with small pokey windows (in small pokey houses on tight narrow roads). This is the cheapest way for developers to meet the heat loss standards.

        All the fault of misguided government & EU regulation as usual.

  3. Richard1
    January 5, 2018

    The push for diesel has been one of the very worst examples of the effect of EU regulation, and a case study on how unaccountable supranational bureaucracy produces bad laws. One of The most powerful industrial lobby groups,the German car industry, teaming up with the most powerful political lobby group, the green blob, to pressure the commission to initiate policies to promote diesel EU-wide. The council of ministers approves it and all countries, inc the U.K. then go ahead and put in place laws and regs to promote diesel. Result – 50% of cars in the U.K. and EU are diesel vs 5% in the US. Because it’s an EU level policy there is no proper debate or scrutiny of the laws or the theory behind the push for diesel, as there should be in a Parliamentary democracy. My family have been running a diesel car for nearly 15 years myself, partly because it’s cheaper and partly it enabled my wife & me to give ourselves a green brownie point. Now of course like many other families we have an unsaleable car, which is still perfectly usable, but we are conscious that it’s doing real environmental damage (as opposed to the dubious environmental damage of CO2 emissions).

    In the referendum campaignRemain kept challenging leave to come up with examples of EU regulation which is bad. I think the promotion of diesel is one of the very starkest examples.

  4. agricola
    January 5, 2018

    Diesel car sales fell because someone mouthed off in government before engaging their brain or having a clear logical policy that took into account modern diesel technology. Government by sound bite with disastrous results, only confirming what many think, ie:- it is not fit for purpose.

    1. Jon Davies
      January 5, 2018

      I think you will find that diesel sales are falling because the car industry was found to be misleading regulators and the public about true diesel emissions. There may well be some modern diesel technology which meets particulate and NOX emission standards but diesel cars are now tainted in most people’s eyes. VW were the most blatant culprits and have admitted to US regulators that they used cheat devices to meet US emission standards. VW executives in the US will almost certainly be going to jail as a result of this. This will cost them billions if not ten billion dollars in fines. Other car manufacturers played a similar game. They may not have had a specific cheat device but their control software still “optimised” performance characteristics under test conditions. And they spent huge sums of money lobbying to prevent a better test regime being introduced; even now they are pleading for some 5 years grace to meet the same emissions level they claimed they met years ago. This is chickens coming home to roost for the European diesel car industry.

      By the way this is not a UK government issue it is a European wide issue. The US and Japanese markets have always been very luke-warm on diesel cars. The UK response is purely a symptom of a wider problem.

  5. Sir Joe Soap
    January 5, 2018

    Not to do with Brexit, but it has to do with another government muddle and May Dither.

    No definitive statements along the lines of * we are doing this that or the other*. Instead, just like Brexit, we hear vague statements and generalities, no denials or confirmations of any positions on the future.

    In that, it is just like Brexit.

  6. Edward2
    January 5, 2018

    The uncertainty about diesel cars being refused entry into cities and anti diesel taxation has also made the trade-in values of such vehicles fall considerably.
    Many like me find they need many thousands more to swop and have decided to carry on with their current vehicle until the government and local councils make their future policies clearer.

    1. alan jutson
      January 5, 2018


      “The uncertainty…..”


      Plus the fact that Government increased the Road fund licence hugely on all cars with an original value of over £40,000, even if you paid less than the headline price.

  7. Spratt
    January 5, 2018

    This sums up the position in the Spratt household. We would have bought a new car in 2017 but are delaying purchase decisions as we don’t want to be saddled with a car that we can’t sell on or that becomes impossibly expensive to run.

  8. lojolondon
    January 5, 2018

    New diesels will be taxed far more than old diesels. So I would rather buy second-hand than new. Basic common sense, nothing to do with Brexit, but everything to do with the intervention of government driving behaviour through taxation.

  9. Epikouros
    January 5, 2018

    There must be a lot of people who are very proud that government policy has forced behaviour change. That it has debilitating effects that far outweighs any benefits that may be accrued from doings so is neither here nor there. As long as the likes of the Greens, remainers, lifestyle puritans and statists can chalk another success in their strive to further their cases and agenda then we should all be happy. Perhaps not if you like diesel cars for their better fuel consumption, lower maintenance needs and longer engine life. Do not like that as a consumer your choice of what you can purchase has yet again been further restricted.

    1. A different Simon
      January 6, 2018

      The virtue signallers you mention generally do not need the better fuel economy of a diesel vehicle because :-
      – a) they are not paying for the running costs with their own money
      – b) they are showered with money from the gravy train
      – c) they are getting £5,000 subsidies from poorer tax payers to purchase an electric car

      Whilst I.M.O. has finally set a date for sulphur reduction from container ship stacks , there are no limits to the amount of particulates which those vessels using heavy fuel oil can kick out .

      Typical authorities ; “Strong on the weak , weak on the strong” .

      Still no proper debate in parliament on whether we want driverless cars on our road . Seems that whatever google says goes , no doubt with subsidies too .

  10. Bert Young
    January 5, 2018

    I switched from petrol some years ago when encouraged to do so . The lack of popularity today is entirely due to the tax regime and biased reports on emissions . I am very reluctant to buy an “electric” replacement car simply because of “pressure”. In a few years time some other source will point an accusing finger at evs ; what will the markets do then ?

  11. English Pensioner
    January 5, 2018

    I think it is largely because cars are lasting longer than ever before. My car is now ten years old, and I’ve never had one for so long. I’ve got rid of previous ones when they started to get unreliable, but so far this one has never let me down, so why should I get a new car?

    My other problem is that cars seem to be getting too many gadgets. Bluetooth for a mobile phone and USB connections, surround sound, etc. Thes are the advertised “features”. One that I looked at needed to be “tethered” to a smart phone (whatever that means) for the sat nav to work and for it to report back to the dealer! I don’t have a smart phone!!!

    Another, up-market car didn’t have electrically folding wing mirrors, they had to be folded back by hand. Neither was I impressed by its parking sensors. My present 10 year old car has them on the basic model!

    I also don’t trust the security on some models particularly the card entry cars, the recent video in the media showing criminals intercepting the radio signal and stealing the car make me want good old-fashioned keys.

    So my ten year old car will become eleven or twelve years old if I don’t find a suitable replacement. I my case it’s nothing to do with whether it’s diesel or petrol driven, it’s just that I can’t find a car that I like.

  12. Alan
    January 5, 2018

    I imagine there will be many more articles stating that some bad economics or political news is not because of Brexit. Brexit will never be blamed on this site.

    Unless the science of economics improves a lot we will never know with certainty the extent to which Brexit is responsible for what happens to our economy, just as we do not know with certainty what benefits we have gained and costs we have incurred from the EU since we joined. It is therefore open to everyone to assert what they believe to be true. It is possible there will be a consensus amongst most economists, but those who wish to will find it easy to ignore them.

    |Reply We can work out what Brexit affects by comparing our experiences post the vote with prior to the vote and with similarly placed countries

  13. Denis Cooper
    January 5, 2018

    In my view the most important statistics are that during 2017, in round numbers:

    Over 2.5 million new cars were registered in the UK:

    significantly exceeding the number manufactured in the UK, about 1.7 million:

    but according to that second reference very greatly exceeding the number of cars which were both produced and sold in the UK, less than 0.4 million.

    Meaning that of the 2.5 million new cars registered in the UK in 2017 over 80% were imported; a percentage which is similar to the percentage of home production which is exported, but mainly outside the EU, as mentioned previously:

    “It’s easy to say, for example, that 8 out of 10 cars made in the UK are exported, without bothering to say where they go – mostly not to the rest of the EU – and gloss over the fact that imports of cars from the rest of the EU are much greater than our exports to them – by about threefold in value, on the last figures I saw – and forget how much of our home market is taken up by imports which could eventually be substituted by domestic production – 1.72 million cars made in the UK in 2016, of which 1.35 million were exported, according to the numbers given here … “

  14. Chris S
    January 5, 2018

    I too would have bought an expensive new Jaguar Diesel car in 2017 for everyday use.
    Instead, I am continuing to drive my very capable but eight year old Audi A5 until governments make up its mind on what they intend to do.

    They won’t be happy with my choice because it has deprived Hammond of something like £15,000 in VAT and lost excise duty and obviously the Audi emits more diesel particles that a new Jaguar would.

    Never mind, perhaps they will prefer it as I intend to use my other car a little more.
    That one has a 5,750cc, 515hp V12 petrol engine………..

    The £15,000 tax saving and the depreciation saved by not changing the Audi will pay for an awful lot of petrol.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 5, 2018

      Anything that deprives Hammond of £15K (that he would almost certainly waste) is a very good thing. Keep running the Audi until it finally dies.

    2. Lifelogic
      January 6, 2018

      Perhaps saving yourself £40K or so of depreciation too. Plus the lost investment opportunity costs.

  15. Andy
    January 5, 2018

    For once you are correct. Consumers have turned against diesel as it has become clear that they poison our air and kill our vulnerable.

    Hybrid cars are a good stop gap – because the infrastructure for fully electric cars is not in place. And it is not in place because climate change deniers – including many geriatrics high up in the Tory party – know global warming will not affect them, but also know the cost of stopping it will. The likes of Lord Lawson can advocate we all go on killing Earth because they know they’ll be dead before the planet is – and he does not want to pay his share to help future generations. This is the basis of current Conservative policy – I’m alright so screw the rest of you.

    However the decline in diesel sales combined with the Brexit related collapse in petrol car sales and exports is bad new for our motor industry. The irony when Brexit poster town Sunderland cuts car jobs because of Brexit. That’ll be a funny day.

    1. Edward2
      January 5, 2018

      In cities private cars are responsible for less than 20% of emissions.
      The majority comes from lorries vans buses coaches taxis river boats, construction site machinery and local industry.
      Oh and wood burning stoves and BBQ’s

      You are confused on this issue with regard to climate change.
      Government and the EU deliberately went against motor industry advice and promoted the use of diesel engines because they emitted less CO2 which they felt was crucial to reduce.
      We switched to diesel.
      Now the government and the EU have realised the down side to diesel is the NOX and particulates they create and have reversed all their policies.
      So we come full circle.
      At a time when the latest diesel engines are now as clean as petrol ones.

    2. roger
      January 5, 2018

      Climate change deniers?
      The climate has always changed in sympathy with abrupt natural events such as volcanoes, the gentler rhythms of ocean oscillations and long term planetary movements.
      When even one of the multitude of so called climate change effects promulgated by the so called climate scientists actually happens, you will get my attention, but a contrived 0.8C rise in the Earth’s temperature (?!) giving rise to ifs, coulds and mights does not cut the mustard in the real world.
      As a pensioner enduring a cold winter here in Scotland I resent the regressive taxes, now billions per year and increasing that this fable generates, and the beneficiaries of my compulsory largess, the landowners and corporates of often foreign countries.
      I also do believe that the holocaust happened.

      1. Andy
        January 6, 2018

        A tight Scottish pensioner. Talk about stereotypes.

        Yes, the climate has always changed. In that you are correct. However the vast majority of scientist believe the climate is changing faster now than ever. And they believe man is the cause.

        Could they be wrong? Yes. And if they are we could end up spending billions making an early switch to renewables.

        Could you be wrong? Yes. And if you are we will have destroyed the planet for our children.

        We have one planet. You are prepared to play Russian Roulette with it. I think that makes you selfish.

        1. Edward2
          January 6, 2018

          There is nothing “tight” about being on a pension income and not liking extra taxes which are largely wasted.
          Quite sensible in fact

          Since 1900 the planet has warmed by approx one degree measured as a global average and since 2000 the rate of increase has reduced contrary to all the predictions.
          To talk of the world coming to an end is hyperbole
          Humans live and survive in areas which are 40 degrees and in areas where it is zero.
          We can adapt and survive a degree or two quite easily.

    3. libertarian
      January 5, 2018


      Its a real shame then that it was your beloved EU that promoted ( due to lobbying by certain German car firms) diesel engines which are so harmful

      1. Andy
        January 6, 2018

        That’s right. The EU is to blame for everything. Yawn.

        You Brexiteers really are incredibly dull people, aren’t you?

        1. Edward2
          January 6, 2018

          But it’s true Andy the EU promoted diesel vehicles as a misguided attempt to reduce CO2 by a tiny amount in global terms and this has led to the air quality problems we now have.
          No amount of childish personal abuse from you will alter the facts.

    4. rose
      January 5, 2018

      Andy, what you have said about Lord Lawson could also be said about you: you don’t care about overpopulation in this country because you will be dead by the time the ill effects really kick in.

      1. Andy
        January 6, 2018

        Overpopulation is not a problem in the UK. Under development is. We have to blame successive governments of both colours for this. The fact is that hardly any of the UK is actually built up – well under 10%. There is plenty of space. All that we lack is political will. If MPs spent less time fiddling their expenses and fiddling with their staff they might be able to do a proper job of fixing the country.

        1. rose
          January 6, 2018

          That now less than 90% includes highlands and islands, rocks and bogs, moors, rivers and streams, woods and forests, flood plains etc. It is not all arable and it is certainly not all suitable for building. When you have covered the arable land with concrete what are your descendants going to eat? Or are you planning for them to keep going to go to Tescos for it, without a thought of where it will come from? Is the food just going to be flown in for ever? What about water and sewage, rubbish, roads, railways, energy? What about recreation and exercise?

          1. Andy
            January 6, 2018

            Ridiculous scaremongering. No one is suggesting covering the entire country with concrete. Our population is growing due, in significant part, to lower infant mortality and increasing life expectancy. (Though by starving the NHS of cash the tax-dodging Tories are in imminent danger of lowering life expectancy again by killing off vulnerable pensioners on trolleys).

            We fit 65m people on to around 6% of the UK. With smart planning we could fit 80m on 8% of the UK. The other 92% of the land is more space than you could ever need.

          2. rose
            January 7, 2018

            But you and your like don’t want to stop at 80 million, and the bulk of the population has a habit of wanting to live in cities in the south of England, not Scotland, N Ireland or Wales.

  16. ian wragg
    January 5, 2018

    Just listening to the Jeremy Vine show, I wonder how long into the discussion it will be before Brexit will be blamed.
    I bought a new Honda last year and as usual, they are ahead of the curve by not offering a diesel option on the new Civic or any other model.
    I read today of 2 significant items on the EU.
    1. Blair says the EU may implode after Brexit.
    2. Austria has stopped paying benefits for children not in the country.
    We can expect and awful lot of common sense coming out of the East European countries now we are getting some right wing governments .
    Pity we can’t get one here.

    1. rose
      January 7, 2018

      And the Norwegians and Danes.

  17. HarveyG
    January 5, 2018

    Better to think about the prices of horses and carts..for that is where we are headed..about the year 1952

  18. stred
    January 5, 2018

    The campaign to ban diesel and push electric cars started about 2 years ago when pressure groups like cleanair london put out figures of 40k deaths pa from PMs and NO2. These were obtained by multiplying the whole population by the estimated shortening of lifespan made by some academics and doctors engaged in funded research. The agenda is linked between a number of Green groups and was lapped up by non-scientific journalists.

    The estimate came from US studies which themselves have been questioned, as there were others that did not find the same effects. In the case of the UK, the vehicles were different because the engines were more advanced and PM filters were brought in, which greatly reduced this pollution. The diseases caused by PMs are really nasty, as opposed to NO2 which is described as a lung irritant. However, NO2 cannot be filtered and PM filters heat it up and made levels rise. However, the graphs show a small rise and fall in NO2 in London despite the increase in numbers of diesel cars.

    In fact pollution from vehicles has fallen greatly over the past 20 years but the hype has resulted in everyone talking about a crisis, filthy air, and a huge number of people dropping dead from diesel fumes. In fact, a small proportion of generally old people dying is attributed to pollution among other things. The Mayor of London has produced a plan to cut all internal combustion engine traffic and the saving in lifespan is calculated in months, a small proportion of which is from cars.

    Personally, I think the anti-diesel campaign is because the Green groups realised that studies show that efficient diesels produce about the same CO2 including the generation as electric cars. Diesels are much cheaper and have long ranges, so they had to be eliminated by another fiddle.

    Re. Up In The Air. London Trust. The latest chart has been modified to show diesel cars producing 5x the NO2 that all their previous charts did.

  19. nigel seymour
    January 5, 2018

    I can’t think of anything less interesting at the moment re discussing diesel and car sales…
    The taxi driver is being released and someone forgot to tell the victims – says a lot about our ‘liberal’ justice system.
    Starmer was interviewed outside his home early this morning and seemed to be telling all and sundry to go and interview and check with everyone else BUT DON’T DRAG ME INTO IT!!

  20. Colin Adkins
    January 5, 2018

    Frankly you would have to be desperate, mad, or rich enough not to care to buy a new car at the present. I am am sad to say that the conservative government has completely trashed the market with its hysterical outpourings about diesels. You should be ashamed of your colleagues incompetence.

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