Diesel is dead: Why the car industry is at a turning point

The once ubiquitous diesel engine is now firmly out of favour. Why are consumers increasingly looking for alternatives?


As former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch famously noted: "Change before you have to." Leading change, not just keeping up with it, is a hallmark of excellent leadership. And change is coming to the motor industry, where brands like Lexus are thinking beyond transportation and placing a firm focus on the future needs of people and society.

It’s a move that will come as no surprise to those who have been following trends in the car industry. The diesel engine, once synonymous with the premium car owner, is now firmly out of favour. The figures speak for themselves, with the value of used diesel cars dropping as much as 26 per cent in the UK this year, while sales of new diesel cars in Ireland this year dropped from 72 per cent to 65 per cent, and that figure is expected to continue to fall. Car manufacturers are scrambling to keep up with the pace of change as they quickly expand on or begin to refine their hybrid or electric offerings. 

One manufacturer leading the change in this area is Lexus.

Lexus RX

In 2005, Lexus announced the launch of the world’s first ever luxury hybrid, the RX 400h. This model proved that a premium car could be fuel-efficient yet provide performance and luxury. Since then, Lexus has continued to develop hybrid technology through innovative thinking. Four years ago, the company made the decision to stop producing diesel engines within the Lexus range. Today, every new Lexus sold in Ireland is 100 per cent hybrid. It was a move that proved visionary, anticipating the future needs of customers. The result is that in the luxury market, Lexus have pioneered the move away from diesel.

In Europe, the UK and France have pledged to end the sale of both petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, and the Netherlands are endeavouring to bring that target forward to 2025. There are also indications that some cities in Germany are aiming to phase out older diesel vehicles, beginning in 2018. Here in Ireland, the government plan to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel engines from 2030, and a recent survey by iReach Insights found that 82 per cent of Irish people buying a car over the next 18 months said they would choose a hybrid over an electric vehicle.

Lexus interior

Although signs do point to the decline of diesel, when it comes to making the switch from a diesel engine to alternatives, Irish consumers have been slow to adapt until now. People often think that electric is the only clean driving option and are put off by the unfamiliarity and behavioural changes that switching to electric demands.

Range anxiety is another deterrent for Irish consumers. Range anxiety is the fear that the vehicle will not have the range to reach its destination and the driver will end up stranded. The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle is also an area of concern and inconvenience for consumers, particularly over long journeys.

With a hybrid, however, there are no barriers and no need for charging points because you don’t need to plug it in. With Lexus Hybrid Drive, the petrol engine of the vehicle charges the battery as needed. When maximum power is required, Lexus Hybrid Drive simultaneously uses its internal combustion engine and electric drive for exceptional performance.

Lexus LC

And make no mistake, your Lexus hybrid car can still get your heart racing. Lexus F models are engineered to conquer the road as well as the race circuit. At their core, they are meant to perform. They boast tuned suspensions and high-performance powertrains, combined with highly rigid bodies and aerodynamic characteristics, while still being respectful to the environment.

The idea that these two seemingly opposing concepts, exhilarating performance and fuel efficiency, can sit side-by-side is indicative of what Lexus call the Yet Philosophy. The Yet Philosophy is a breakthrough approach to problem-solving that takes conflicting ideas and uses them as the basis for stimulating new ideas. For example, can a hybrid car be created that provides elegant styling yet is aerodynamic? For Lexus, the answer is yes. This problem-solving philosophy has allowed Lexus to continue to push boundaries and lead in the hybrid technology space, while retaining all the hallmarks of superior quality that Lexus is renowned for.

For more on the Lexus hybrid range visit www.lexus.ie