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Diesel critic makes U-turn and warns of risk to used car prices from 'demonisation' of the fuel

Alan Tovey
Diesel cars are being unfairly punished according to an air quality testing company  - © 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP
Diesel cars are being unfairly punished according to an air quality testing company - © 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

Prices of used diesel vehicles could be “cratered” by a broad-brush regulatory regime that doesn’t discriminate between most and least polluting ­engines, it has been claimed.

Nick Molden, chief executive of the testing company Emissions Analytics and one of the harshest critics of diesel at the height of the VW scandal, has come to the defence of the fuel. His company’s on-the-road tests have found some of the most modern diesel cars, classed as meeting the Euro 6 standard of pumping out no more than 80mg of NOx pollution per kilometre, achieve far better performances.

“Some of the latest diesel cars are as good as petrol cars on pollution,” said Mr Molden, whose company has established the EQUA Air Quality Index, which gives an independent assessment of how much pollution cars emit.

However, with the Government considering a tax on diesel vehicles in the Budget to help fund its Air Quality Strategy, buyers are shying away from cars powered by the fuel. This has hastened the fall in sales of diesel cars first seen after the VW scandal.

VW badge
VW cheating emissions sparked a huge backlash on diesel

Industry data showed in October that the market share for diesel cars plunged 30pc compared with a year ago, and the industry has complained about the ­unfair “demonisation” of the fuel.

Mr Molden said: “The newest diesel cars – about 5pc – are well below the 80mg limit, some close to 60mg. But from the consumer point of view all diesel is bad because of what they are hearing. It could crater second-hand prices of diesel cars.”

He called for a shake-up of what he described as a “fundamentally wrong” strategy by the Government towards diesel, a fuel that motorists were previously encouraged to use because it produces less CO2 than petrol.

“Consumers did not know what they were buying, and it is not their fault,” Mr Molden said. “Car companies have invested heavily to make diesel clean, and both groups are being punished.”

Diesel car prices
Diesel car prices

Emission Analytics’ research did point out, however, that only the latest diesel engines hit the lowest NOx levels. Mr Molden said: “On average, most diesels are bad, and a lot are terrible when it comes to NOx.”

Car industry trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has criticised the government for failing to implement a coherent strategy towards diesel, saying unclear policy has contributed to sales of new cars plunging over the past seven months.

An SMMT spokesman added: “We need consistency from government to promote the lowest emission vehicles. Inconsistent messages have undermined the new car market, with motorists holding on to older polluting diesels instead of buying newer, cleaner, cars.”