More than 40% of UK cars are diesels

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More than two out of five cars on UK roads are diesel-powered despite concerns over emissions, new figures show.

Although demand for new diesel cars plummeted last year, Department for Transport data shows a total of 12.9 million diesels – combining new and used cars – are licensed.

This represents a market share of 40.1% and demonstrates the significant position diesel continues to hold in the automotive industry.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said the data highlights “just how entrenched diesel cars have become in our society”.

He went on: “Even if the dramatic drop in sales of new diesel cars continues, it could take several years before the size of the overall diesel fleet is significantly dented.”

Environmental groups have welcomed the drop-off in demand for new diesel cars, with registrations falling by 30% year-on-year in the final quarter of 2017.

Concern over nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles has grown since the Volkswagen scandal of September 2015.

The German manufacturer was found to have cheated air pollution tests for 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, including 1.2 million in the UK.

A tax hike on new diesel vehicles was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in November, and the Government has pledged to ban the sale of all new conventional diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

Clean air campaigners have also called for a scrappage scheme and
restrictions on the most polluting cars entering towns and cities with the worst air quality.

Oliver Hayes of Friends of the Earth said: “Years of misinformation and lobbying from the auto industry has ensured large chunks of the UK are hooked on deadly diesel.

“Our diesel habit will be difficult to kick, especially when powerful companies’ profits depend on our continuing dependency.

“That’s why it’s so important that the Government introduces a national scrappage scheme, funded by the car industry’s deep pockets, to help people ditch diesel altogether and shift to cleaner, greener alternatives.”

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