Diesel cars are caught in a “perfect storm” which will result in their market share collapsing to just 15pc as motorists dump the fuel, according to an industry expert.
The prediction comes from Aston University automotive expert Professor David Bailey, and follows official figures which showed demand for new diesel cars fell 17.1pc in 2017.
The drop accelerated towards the end of the year amid growing confusion among motorists about government policy toward diesel, which included a new levy on sales of diesel cars in the Budget. As a result sales of diesel cars plunged 31.1pc in December.
Mr Bailey said: “Diesel cars face a raft of challenges, each one of which could damage sales, and which are combining to kill off the domestic diesel sector, which was so rattled by the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.
“They face a perfect storm of bad PR over pollution, coupled with concerns over increasingly strict regulations and sinking second-hand values.”
He predicted that sales of new diesel cars will fall by another 10pc in 2018, and they could make up just 15pc of the new car market by 2025, down from a 47.7pc market share in 2016, and 42pc in 2017.
His forecast comes as Jaguar Land Rover – Britain’s biggest car maker – revealed UK sales were flat last year and expressed its frustration at the government’s “demonisation” of diesel.
The company – along with much of the rest of the industry – says diesel cars produce less CO2 than petrol, making them better for the environment. However, ministers want to discourage the use of diesel because it produces more nitric oxide and particulant pollution than petrol – something car makers argue against, saying the latest diesel engines are just as clean as petrol.
About 80pc of the almost 120,000 JLR cars sold in the UK last year were powered by diesel and Andy Goss, JLR sales operations director, said he found it “difficult to fathom” the government’s approach.
He said: “We’re investing and exporting 80pc of our output and delivering a huge amount of benefit to this economy.
“One would expect hand-in-glove approach when it comes to looking at an area of policy so we don’t get surprises. It’s a reasonable request when, as a car manufacturer, planning takes a long time and takes huge amounts of money.”
Mr Bailey also called for a diesel scrappage scheme to be backed by government which would encourage drivers out of heavily polluting older diesel cars and into new electric vehicles.
He added: “Governments have missed several opportunities to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles, starting way back in 2001 when there was a misconceived drive to get people to opt for diesels.
“Now that it’s clear diesel is dying a slow death, the time is right for the government to take the initiative and offer up scrappage benefits to those who are prepared to ditch their diesels and switch to electric cars.”