SEOUL, Jul. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — Already unpopular due to their alleged propensity to generate air pollutant particles, a rumored “diesel fuel tax” that may come into effect in the future has customers gravitating away from diesel cars.
A spokesperson for the Korean Automobile Manufacturing Association gave a number of reasons for the decreasing popularity of diesel cars, saying, “Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ in 2015 and its purported impact on air pollution, the possibility of an increased fuel tax on diesel, and stricter restrictions on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions this coming September have all had the effect of scaring away potential customers.”
A closer look at yearly and monthly sales figures shows the lack of enthusiasm for diesel cars. From January to May of this year, sales of diesel cars made up 46.3 percent of total car sales, the lowest proportion of sales since 2013. Whereas the years between 2012 to 2015 were considered the boom years for diesel engines, their steady decline has coincided with the resurgence of gasoline cars and the increasing popularity of hybrids.
Sales of gasoline cars from January to May from 2014 through 2016 showed steady growth, from 37.2 percent to 42.1 percent.
Hybrid car sales are also rising incrementally, cutting into the prospective sales of diesel cars. Compared to four years ago, when hybrid car sales made up a mere 2.3 percent of total cars sold, sales from January to May this year have been positively staggering, with hybrids accounting for 4.4 percent of the total.
The popularity of hybrids is apparent in the foreign cars that Koreans are opting for. A salesperson for a major foreign automaker said that Korean consumers are now choosing hybrids and gasoline cars due to their perceived qualities of “environmental friendliness and better-managed noise pollution”.
Industry experts say that hybrid cars now make up 9 percent of the total foreign cars on the road, and expect the total numbers to increase up to 10 percent. Gasoline cars also saw an increase in sales this year of 40.8 percent, up from 33.9 percent last year.
For diesel cars, the results so far are not promising. Compared to last year, sales from January to May have dropped eight percentage points. Once making up nearly 70 percent of foreign car sales, the fact that diesel cars now barely comprise 50 percent is a very clear indicator of how far they have fallen.