Sunday 21 January 2018

Time we brought balance to diesel debate: despite problems, it remains a vital source

Focus on fuel: Diesel

People are making purchasing decisions for the wrong reasons
People are making purchasing decisions for the wrong reasons
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

We need to get this 'diesel v petrol' debate into some perspective.

The whole thing is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling doomsday prophecy, with people making purchasing decisions for the wrong reasons, just like thousands did in the past when they bought a diesel to cover a mere 8,000km per year.

Sure, diesels have problems, and I am not attempting in any way to understate them. I am merely highlighting and responding to what has become a rising tide of worry among owners and potential buyers.

Streams of people contacting Independent Motors are genuinely afraid to commit to a diesel car next time without official assurance their vehicle won't be heavily discriminated against in the course of their ownership through budgetary measures that will affect its value.

What is really behind the 'diabolicalisation' of diesel?

Simplistically put, the entire issue stems from the perspective that diesels emit particles that can have adverse effects on health, especially in congested areas.

This has been highlighted with great intensity in recent times, with reports and studies linking it heavily to poor health. As a result, diesel emission regulations are being tightened almost by the month.

But the fact is that diesels are now immeasurably cleaner than they were a few years back, when many of the studies highlighting health risks wee undertaken.

The stringent regulations are drastically cutting NOx emissions.

Indeed, such is the current and anticipated severity of what's permissible that the cost of producing cleaner diesel engines is increasing exponentially - with obvious repercussions for purchase prices.

Of course, health concerns must prevail. We can't be careful enough.

And if we have to pay more, so be it.

With diesel 10c/litre lower than petrol at the pumps, the expectation/fear is that the Government will increase diesel prices.

Put all these factors together and you see why people ask if they should buy diesel.

The reality is, however, that diesel remains the practical, viable choice for owners of most medium and larger vehicles.

It is also the main option, with a few exceptions, for those who drive more than 20,000km per year. And there are lots of those.

Furthermore, we should remember that diesel vehicles are the lifeblood of rural communities, where people cover longer distances and need extra pulling power for social and economic reasons.

This should remind politicians that what applies in urban settings does not always apply rurally.

Above all, however, it is only fair that if there is going to be a shift in our focus, it should be thought out for the longer term.

It should allow people and prices to adjust at a pace and rate that won't send values plunging overnight (a la the switch to emissions-based taxation in 2008).

To bring balance to the issue, we need an indication of a longer-term strategy. That would allow buyers - and dealers - to plan in a measured way.

Cleaner and greener diesel has a place in the future, surely. So have petrol, hybrid, electric etc. Now would be a good time to secure ALL those futures.

Indo Motoring

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