Australians buying diesels in record numbers

Consumers buck a global trend in falling diesel sales, shunning LPG instead.

The developed world may be shying away from the internal combustion car – specifically, diesel -- but Australian motorists are embracing the technology in record numbers, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

In the same month France and the UK nominated end dates for the sale of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, along with strict penalties for heavy polluting vehicles, the latest car census figures released on Friday showed Australian motorists are bucking global trends.

Diesel passenger car sales in Australia are up 57 per cent since 2012.

“While the number of petrol powered vehicles increased (0.8 per cent) from 2016 to 2017 their share of the total fleet decreased again,” said Michaela Cook, ABS director of transport and tourism.

“The proportion of vehicles fuelled by petrol has decreased from 88.1 per cent of the national fleet in 2012 to 75.7 per cent in 2017. Diesel vehicles remain a popular choice in 2017, with 313,551 (8.1 per cent) more diesel vehicles registered than in the previous year.”

Vehicles powered by diesel account for 22.2 per cent of the national fleet in 2017, up from 15.9 per cent five years ago.

Toyota leading sales

The latest figures show Toyota is a clear market leader in Australia.

“Toyota topped the list of registered passenger vehicles by manufacturer with 2.8 million Toyotas on register in 2017, 11.7 per cent more than five years ago,” the ABS data says.

“Holden and Ford came second and third respectively in the race for most registered passenger vehicles in 2017, however, both manufacturers reported a decrease when compared to five years ago.”

The new report bears stark contrast with the rest of the developed world on diesel, specifically Europe, where diesel sales peaked in 2012, and have slowly tapered off since.

In April, Germany's car makers announced a 19.3 per cent plunge in diesel sales.

Instead, the uptake in diesel vehicles in Australia has coincided with a sharp decline in LPG vehicles, the ABS says.

“The demise of LPG is particularly stark with 34,769 (9.2 per cent) fewer LPG vehicles registered in 2017 compared with 2016 and 146,750 (29.9 per cent) less than five years ago,” the report says.

Australians are purchasing new vehicles in unprecedented numbers, and stakeholders believe 2017 looms as another record year.

Sales of diesel light commercial vehicles (utilities) and SUVs has been central to this growth, with both selling in record numbers.

Electric cars struggling to catch on

Conversely, electric car sales continue to make up less than 1 per cent of Australian sales, due in part to our long travel distances, lack of charging infrastructure and absence of government incentives.

On the electric front, the federal government’s green car strategy will eventually turn a corner, according to experts, signalled by the Queensland’s government’s newly announced rollout of an electric vehicle super highway this week.

Until then, Australia will be considered a slow mover – even in its delayed emission targets, which are well behind Europe and the US.

According to a recent forecast from UBS, diesel will “almost disappear” from the global market within 10 years as it faces a perfect storm of competition from electric cars and renewed environment regulations. It will be particularly prevalent in Europe, where Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz emission scandals continue to play out.

UBS instead believes sales of 48-volt mild-hybrid cars, like Audi’s SQ7, which combines a petrol engine with a large battery to offer similar fuel economy and performance to diesel while eliminating deadly nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, will thrive.

The bank expects sales of 48V cars to overtake diesel globally in 2021, and to account for a quarter of all cars sold by 2025.

Keep in the know

Edition 7 of Auto Market Watch – carsales’ trade publication delivering actionable insights into the Australian automotive industry – is now available!

In this edition we:

  • Examine passenger cars that are bucking the trend to SUVs
  • Uncover sales opportunities as buyers extend their purchase search interstate
  • Chat unlocking dealership performance with industry expert John Elsworth
  • Look at the booming prices of vintage and modern Ferrari models as the brand celebrates its 70th birthday and much more

Read Edition 7 below or CLICK HERE.