Jaguar boss: 'It’s still OK to buy diesel cars'

Jeremy Hicks says new-build diesels are environmentally sound as buyers plan to desert DERV

Diesel cars are being unfairly painted as dangerous and deadly, according to the managing director of Jaguar Land Rover. Jeremy Hicks was responding to the publication of the UK government's clean air consultation paper, which is focusing on reducing nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions in towns and cities. Diesel, especially in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, has been fingered as the culprit for the majority of NOx emissions, which are harmful to human health and which can cause severe respiratory illness.

“Recent publicity around the diesel debate has caused significant confusion for customers; we are seeing more and more people ask us whether they should be buying a petrol or a diesel. We have a range of both efficient clean petrol and diesel options so we are providing a simple unbiased guide for customers to make an informed choice” said Mr Hicks. “We welcome the consultation recognising the fundamental difference between older vehicles which contribute to air pollution and clean, new diesels which are part of the air quality solution. Our latest Euro6 diesel engines are among the cleanest in the world.

£1bn investment

"Our customers demand greater fuel economy all the time, and new diesels deliver that. Customers can be reassured that Jaguar Land Rover is continuing to invest in cleaner technology, with £1 billion invested at our Engine Manufacturing Centre near Wolverhampton, as well as a major hybrid and electrification programme. Older car engines are just one potential source of urban air pollutants, and we'd be keen to see the strategy tackling air quality across a range of pollution sources including heating, public transport and shipping."

London restrictions

Mr Hicks' words come as London Mayor Sadiq Kahn is laying out plans to ensure that as many ad 80 per cent of all urban journeys are carried out on public transport. These plans may include a replacement of the London congestion charge with a new per-mile charge for using roads in the city, alongside a promise to ban the development of new car parks. "We have to be ambitious in changing how our city works. While there will be 5m additional journeys being made across our transport network by 2041, at the same time we're setting ourselves a bold target of reducing car journeys by 3m every day" said Mr Kahn. "We have to make not using your car the affordable, safest and most convenient option for Londoners going about their daily lives. This is not only essential for dealing with congestion, but crucial for reducing our toxic air pollution and improving our health."


Here in Ireland, there is already a distinct urban-rural divide when it comes to diesel ownership. According to figures from car sales website Carzone's latest motoring survey, 51 per cent of drivers living in urban areas currently own a diesel car, as compared to 81 per cent of rural dwellers. There is also a gender gap - 48 per cent of women drivers surveyed drive a petrol-powered car. With more of us living in urban areas, and women statistically making the final decision on a car purchase, that means diesel sales are likely to head in one direction only.

Budget concerns

While many owners and car buyers are currently concerned that drastic new anti-diesel measures may well be introduced in the next Budget, for now the Government is remaining quiet on the issue, except to say that apparently we don't need to be too concerned. According to a paper released by the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and Environment "apart from an exceedance of the NOx ceiling in 2010, emissions of key air pollutants are currently below the relevant national ceilings under the National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NEC Directive)."

Those with diesel keys in their hand shouldn’t relax just yet, though. The report does go on to say that “the continued reliance on petroleum based road transport means that NOx levels will remain a problem pollutant in cities and towns in Ireland. The problem will likely be exacerbated with the anticipated continued economic recovery driving an increase in road traffic, and NOx concentrations would be expected to rise accordingly. Coupled with particular meteorological conditions providing for the build?up of NOx, it is possible that levels of NOx above the limit value will be recorded at monitoring stations in the near future.” So there’s at least the potential for some form of diesel levy, even if it’s not technically needed right now.

In the meantime, car buyers seem to be voting with their feet already. Diesel sales in Ireland are down 15 per cent this year compared to 2016, while petrol-electric hybrid sales are up by a huge 80 per cent. Diesel car sales now account for 65 per cent of all new car sales, as opposed to a peak of 73.5 per cent in 2014.

According to a survey in the UK by Autocar Magazine, just 23 per cent of car buyers will choose diesel for their next car, with 60 per cent going for petrol, and 17 per cent for hybrid or electric power.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring