Saturday 24 March 2018

Petrol v diesel: why Irish motorists are buying more petrol cars for the first time in years and the models they're favouring

Our survey of distributors reveals varying levels of swing to petrol. Our motoring editor has the details

The petrol shift varies for each car distributor
The petrol shift varies for each car distributor
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Buyers are increasingly returning to petrol in greater numbers than last year and this trend looks set to accelerate over the next 12 months.

An Independent Motors survey, in the Irish Independent Motors section today, also shows that diesel fuel maintains a loyal following.

Among people who own larger cars and SUVs, diesel is a firm favourite, according to the survey.

In some cases, there are significant swings to petrol, while in others there are small shifts, our snapshot of buying trends reveals.

But most distributors who participated in the survey expect the switch to petrol to pick up pace for the 172-reg period - and more dramatically again for next year.

Those surveyed were asked for individual petrol and diesel sales figures for the year to date.

They were also requested to supply what models/segments are changing most in their line-ups and their projections for diesel-petrol sales for the 172-reg period - and for next year.


A theme in response to the questionnaire was the as-yet-unknown impact of measures in the Budget.

Those who responded said that if diesel is penalised, growth in petrol and hybrids/electrics will be much stronger.

If there are changes, some feel the petrol mix could expand to 40pc next year.

The distributors point to greatest increases in petrol purchasing and forward orders among buyers of small hatchbacks and family cars so far this year.

However, some note a distinct move to compact and mid-size SUVs, too.

The shift to petrol is regarded as being attributable to uncertainty over diesel taxation in the near future.

While technological improvements in petrol engines that narrow road-tax, performance and MPG gap with diesel were also cited.

Here are edited responses from the many distributors who took part in our survey.

We asked them for: * Their individual petrol v diesel sales figures so far * What models/segments are changing most;

* Their projections for 172 - and for next year.

AUDI: Their petrol mix has increased from 10pc (Jan-May 16) to 12pc share (Jan- May 17). The models responsible are the A1, A3 and Q2. The new 1.0TFSI petrol is selling well in the A3 and Q2 SUV.

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They say: "We would expect the overall increase in demand for petrol to continue. Our order bank for 172-plate currently shows an increase for petrol share."

But they still see demand remaining strong for TDi engines, especially in larger vehicles, though there is a gradual slow move back towards petrol engines.

BMW: They are seeing a significant increase in 4 Series petrol model sales in particular - up 43pc. The petrol ratio is relatively static across saloons/hatches.

BMW 4-Series

They say: "Based on enquiries we see a trend towards more petrol models and plug-in hybrids."

CITROEN: Across all Citroen and DS cars they calculate there is a 20pc increase in petrol and a corresponding lowering of diesel buying (2016/2017 Jan-May sales).

The supermini segment is down 38pc on diesel directly as a result of their new C3, which has a new generation of PureTech petrol engines. They expect the move away from diesel to continue this year (5pc-10pc), particularly for traditional smaller cars.

The Citroën C3

They say: "We are also getting enquiries about small petrol vans, given they are predominantly in urban environments and clocking low mileage."

FIAT: The petrol shift is less pronounced for them as they have always been a high petrol-based brand, given their proportion of FIAT 500 sales. Overall for their year-to-date split is 68pc petrol to 32pc diesel. They new Tipo is 55pc/45pc in favour of diesel but orders suggest 50:50 soon.

They say: "It seems to be the small-family segment that is experiencing the most marked shift towards petrol, but you can also see it starting to happen for the SUV segments that have been traditionally diesel dominated."

FORD: Their petrol mix has increased by 5pc year-on-year. That has been entirely driven by KA+ and some small gains in Focus (8pc to 10pc petrol mix). Petrol sales in 2016 (Jan to May) are 27.4pc of total petrol sales 2017 (Jan to May): 32.4pc of total.

The smaller models (Ka +, Fiesta, Focus) are sparking the growth in petrol. For next year they foresee a growth in petrol mix as they will have their new Fiesta.

Ford Fiesta

They say: "We forecast a Ford petrol mix of 40pc for 2017.Certainly by 181 we foresee a stronger demand for petrol than in recent years."

HONDA: They say: "We see the ratio of 60pc diesel and 40pc petrol for next year across our range."

JAGUAR LAND ROVER: They estimate just 2pc/3pc increase in petrol sales next year.

They say: "There has been no noticeable change in the uptake of petrol compared to diesel within our range."

KIA: They say: "Last year our petrol share was 16.5pc. This year it's 18.5pc which can be attributed to the Niro hybrid models registered to date."

LEXUS: They say: "Owners of premium diesel cars are becoming quite concerned about what residual values will be in three to four years' time if there are taxation changes. Moving to hybrid is seen as a way of future-proofing their investment in a new premium car."

Lexus LS

MERCEDES: Their figures reveal a lot: 2017 petrol 16pc/diesel 84pc; 2016 petrol 19pc/diesel 81pc. This can be explained by a number of factors, especially the change to their new best-selling E-Class during the first four months of last year and a lack of diesel availability.

They are beginning to see slight movement between petrol and diesel. However, it is really down to three models: A-Class (39pc petrol/61pc diesel); CLA (40pc petrol/60pc diesel); C-Class (32pc petrol/68pc diesel). This trend is also geographical and city-based (Dublin, Cork, Limerick etc). Outside these areas diesel remains the first choice.

Mercedes E-Class E220d 2dr Coupé

They say: "We expect any change in these statistics to be a slow burner in the Irish market. Of course if any financial incentives or customer benefits were introduced, it would speed up this process."

OPEL: While overall market sales this year are 30.3pc petrol vs 27.5pc in 2016, Opel has registered 45.3pc petrol - up from 37pc. They see a movement towards petrol in most Opel sectors.

They expect around 45pc petrol/55pc diesel split this year. The market will slightly lean towards petrol but they have new diesel arrivals (Insignia/Grandland X).

Strong points for diesels were fuel economy and torque. But with higher list prices and technology costs, drivers need a lot of mileage to get the beneficial fuel savings from a diesel.

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They say: "We are seeing a gradual shift back towards petrol and we would see this trend continuing in to 2018 and beyond as the cost of emmisionising diesel engines feeds through into pricing across the industry."

PEUGEOT: Year-to-date petrol sales have increased from 27pc to 39pc, thanks to strong performance of PureTech petrol engines in most models.

They say they're experiencing much stronger petrol growth across SUV range: from 26.4pc petrol in 2016 to 34.8pc in 2017. In the case of the 2008 SUV, the petrol mix has grown to 47pc.

They predict petrol sales will grow steadily in 172. Forward orders for the new 3008 SUV with the 1.2 PureTech 130bhp petrol engine are strong.

Peugeot 3008 SUV

They say: "Much depends on any Budget announcements. If diesel is penalised, then growth in petrol and hybrids/electrics will be stronger again. Petrol mix is likely then to grow to 40pc next year."

RENAULT: They've seen some increase in Captur petrol sales but diesel remains the customer preference at over 90pc.

In Megane, Kadjar, Scenic, the demand remains well over 90pc diesel.

The new Renault Megane Grand Coupe

They say: "Customers are still driven by value. In terms of next year, we don't currently expect to see a significant change."

SEAT: Petrol sales increased marginally on 2016 but different models impact in different ways.

The Ibiza supermini is predominantly petrol-based, while the Alhambra people carrier is 100pc diesel.

Leon petrol sales are increasing year-on-year and they see 172 continuing that trend. That, they say, is because people view new petrol engines to be as good as diesels on fuel economy and even torque (pulling power), which used to be a unique selling point for diesel.

They estimate the Leon petrols will account for around 30pc of sales next year with the Ateca compact SUV still "considerable" at 15pc- 20pc.

They say: "We see big changes coming in the mid-size hatch and SUV segments."

SKODA: Petrol accounted for 30pc of sales in 2016 and are at 35pc so far for 2017. Their share is above the market average.

Petrol sales for Octavia have jumped from 20pc in 2016 to 28pc 2017 in the year to date largely due to the introduction of the 1.0 TSI petrol engine. Fabia, Rapid and Yeti have all increased petrol share.

Skoda Octavia

In the medium term they believe the petrol trend could continue towards 35pc-40pc of sales (2018 on the level of 32-34pc).

They point out that petrol sales before the introduction of the current system were around 70pc. If regulatory/taxation changes come it would impact on current levels.

They say: "We expect the petrol share in overall market will grow to 31pc by the end of the 172 plate v 28pc for the full year 2016."

SSANGYONG: No significant change, slightly lower percentage petrol sales this year. Small volume - Tivoli is the only vehicle with a petrol option. A possible slight increase in the cities but country customers still opting for diesels.

They say: "If there is growth in urban areas we would expect to see petrol model sales grow to 5pc of overall sales."

SUZUKI: This year (Jan-May), due to the introduction of the IGNIS, their petrol/diesel sales mix is more heavily petrol focused: petrol 73pc/diesel 27pc. During the same period last year, the spilt was more even: petrol 52pc/diesel 48pc.

Suzuki Ignis

Only S-Cross and Vitara (crossover and small SUV) have diesel variants in their range. Due to the arrival of 1.0 and 1.4 Boosterjet petrol engines (S-Cross) and 1.4-litre (Vitara S) this will decline slightly.

They say: "We expect an increase over last year in the smaller car segments."

TOYOTA: The small-family sector is experiencing the biggest shift. Corolla petrol sales have increased from 13pc last year to 30pc this year. Four-in 10 Auris models sold this year were petrol-hybrid. Of the remaining conventional engines, 39pc of sales were petrol last year but this year the figure is 47pc. Hybrids will, they say, show an increasing percentage of sales for 172-reg where that is an option. In 2016 (Jan - April) sales mix was diesel 57pc, hybrid 11pc and petrol 32pc.

Toyota Auris

For the corresponding period this year, diesel is 40pc, hybrid 26pc, petrol 33pc.

They say: "Again, for us, it's slightly different given the hybrid options we have. Currently hybrid is accounting for 27pc of total sales volume. We expect this to go to around 40pc next year.

VOLKSWAGEN: They say: "Our petrol sales have fallen by 13.6pc mainly due to our reduced rent-a-car registrations. However, order intake on Golf petrol has increased sharply since the introduction of the new model in March."

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VOLVO: They see the biggest increase in small-to-medium cars; no increase in SUV segments.

They say: "A lot will depend on taxation changes and consumer trends but we would expect an increase."

Indo Motoring

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