Because by 2030 diesels are forecast to account for just 9 percent of new-car sales in Europe, according to a recent study by AlixPartners, compared with about 50 percent today.
The cause of the massive shift is the expectation that automakers will be forced to rely on electrified powertrains to meet tougher emissions rules in the future. Therefore, if I remain faithful to my beloved diesel, I will be a niche motorist.
Automotive News Europe was probably the first publication to report the forthcoming demise of the diesel in Europe. That was more than a decade ago when diesel's rise seemed unstoppable. We were told then, however, that the introduction of stricter European emission standards would require automakers to add costly after-treatment systems to make diesels clean enough to meet new pollution regulations.
That cost would need to be passed on to car buyers, making the diesels uncompetitive against alternatives such as gasoline-powered cars and models with electrified powertrains. This regulatory-driven change would make the gasoline king of Europe again when it came to the top-selling fuel for internal combustion engines.
The power shift, predicted during my interview in 2005 with former Fiat powertrain guru Rinaldo Rinolfi, who is one of the fathers of the common-rail diesel, was set to happen last year. Rinolfi was off by just one year as gasoline engines are poised to take the lead again in 2016.
I recently spoke to Rinolfi to get his next prediction for diesels, which he said would stabilize at about 40 percent of total European vehicle sales in 2020. That sounded reasonable. Then came AlixPartners' head-turning forecast that diesels would have a single-digit share of the European vehicle market 14 years from now. AlixPartners, which is a very respected U.S. consulting firm, says that diesels are on track to lose 2.7 points of market share a year starting now.
Will this happen? I fear it will. Euro 6 emissions standards, particularly for nitrogen oxide (NOx), already have made diesel minicars a rarity because the powertrain fixes are just too costly for most customers. This trend will spread to subcompacts and could extend to compacts.
Europe accounts for about 85 percent of global diesel demand. The powertrain is nonexistent in China and any dreams that U.S. customers would embrace diesels are probably dead because of Volkswagen Group's image-shattering emissions-cheating scandal. Diesels might have had a chance if a fast-growing, densely populated, relatively wealthy country decided to embrace the technology. But why would an emerging market want to welcome the NOx and particulate matter that the EU was willing to allow to help reduce CO2 emissions?
BRUSSELS - The European Union will take legal action against some member states for failing to police car emission rules, its industry commissioner, Elzbieta Bienkowska, said.
Bienkowska said she "definitely" wants to start formal infringement procedures against "not all and not one" member state for allowing an overshoot in emissions but is still gathering evidence. "It will be in the next several weeks, a few months from now because we have to complete the evidence," Bienkowska said. She declined to name which EU nations would be affected.
"We need a very good legal basis, but I definitely want to start infringements," she said.
The commissioner reiterated calls for VW to compensate European owners of its diesel cars along the lines of its $15 billion settlement in the United States, saying it was unfair for them to be treated differently due to the different legal system. VW has offered U.S. customers compensation for bringing in vehicles to remove cheat software and make them compliant with emissions regulations. In Europe, the carmaker only offers the technical fix.
"It is not enough just to send your cold letters saying 'Please come on this day and we will replace these devices for a new one'," Bienkowska said in an interview with Reuters.
"Compensation is the noisiest subject, present everywhere, and this is a really important topic."
The VW scandal also highlighted an industry-wide disparity between NOx emissions recorded in regulator-approved laboratory tests and those in everyday use on roads, which is often five times more.
NOx gases contribute to acid rain and respiratory illnesses blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year.
Bienkowska said starting in 2019, rules proposed by regulators in the wake of the the VW diesel scandal would tackle the widespread use of engine regimes that switch off technology designed to lower tailpipe gases, once cars are in real road conditions.
"We have a lot of such examples, some of them are quite shocking," Bienkowska said.
Under current EU law, the use of "defeat devices" - triggered, for instance, by outside temperatures different to those in indoor testing facilities - are legal if they can be shown to be needed to protect engines rather than cheat tests.