The European Union has clarified its almost insanely vague rules surrounding diesel emissions, and started new tests which are tougher and, more important, not chock full of loopholes. The new rules came into effect on September 1, and diesel sales have already been plummeting.
One immediate result appears to have been Fiat and Volkswagen running away from the efficient engines, with Fiat reportedly dropping the Fiat Panda diesel and working on dropping the 500 diesel. Fiat’s engines were highly reputable, with good power and economy; the engines were made in Poland. Diesel share has plummeted to just 15% of sales in the Panda, and just 4% in the 500.
Volkswagen, the company which famously pioneered cheating on emissions tests, had total EU sales of its eponymous brand drop by a stunning 43%. Audi fell by 56% in Europe, while Skoda fell by 33% in Europe, and Seat saw a 21% drop in global sales. Volkswagen (Europe’s sales leader by a huge margin) was particularly hard-hit, allegedly because they did not have enough alternative engine production.
Diesel emissions can contain high levels of carcinogenic particles and smog-causing agents. On a continent where medical care is paid by taxes, it became an important issue for governments.
The replacements for diesel engines are, in essence, more-efficient gasoline cars, especially hybrids. The cost of gasoline is quite high in Europe, at roughly $5.68 per U.S. gallon, making economy a higher priority than in North America.