Number of diesel cars drops30 Apr 2020

First annual reduction in quarter of a century

In 2019 there were 12.29 million diesels on the roads. This compares with 12.4 million a year earlier.

This is the first decline since records began in 1994 when there were just 1.6 million diesels licensed. Last year there were also:

  • 18.8 million petrol cars
  • 90,000 pure battery-electric cars
  • 145,000 plug-in hybrid cars
  • 514,000 mild hybrid cars

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“These figures hint at a motoring milestone – the possibility that we have hit or even passed ‘peak diesel’ – due to the collapse in sales of new diesel cars together with the scrapping of older diesels, which have either come to the end of their useful lives or whose owners fear increasing restrictions on their use because of air quality concerns.

“Last year also saw the first drop in the volume of diesel fuel sold since the financial crisis.”

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders 583,488 new diesel cars were sold in 2019, down 21.8% on the 746,332 sold in 2018.

However, diesel-powered vans – which make up 96% of the fleet – increased in number last year, up from 3.86 million to 3.97 million.

Steve Gooding added:

“Manufacturers have struggled to develop cost-effective zero-tailpipe technologies to power these workhorse vehicles.”

The Government has said the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans could be brought forward from 2040 to as early as 2032 in a bid to meet carbon reduction targets.



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

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