Although year-on-year new car sales are down for 2019, figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry show a consistent rise in the number of motorists opting for petrol over diesel cars.
In January 2019, 45 per cent of new cars sold in Ireland were petrol models. That figure for petrol models is an increase from 39 per cent in January 2018 and 32 per cent in January 2017.
The resurgence of petrol in the sales of Ford models in Ireland is even more pronounced than the wider market. For example, for the popular Ford Focus model (third best-selling car in the January 2019 sales market ), the share of petrol models has increased from 21.8 per cent in 2018 to 51.8 per cent this year.
According to Ford Ireland managing director, Ciarán McMahon, that upward trajectory of sales of petrol models is only 'right and proper', saying, “A petrol model is the correct choice for many Irish motorists."
However, when the CO2-based tax regime was introduced in 2008, Ireland saw a huge migration to diesel models because the tax system favoured the lower emissions of diesel engines.
But for many motorists diesel was not the right choice, mainly because their annual mileage in the car was not enough to justify the extra cost of a diesel. In addition, many new diesel-converts were not aware that diesel particulate filters (present in all modern diesels ) required an occasional long run in the car at motorway speeds in order to burn off the particles of soot and carbon that are trapped in the filter. Failure to do that would allow the filter to become clogged and in extreme cases would require the filter to be replaced at a considerable expense. And dealers said this was becoming an occasional occurrence for a proportion of typically urban motorists who were not driving sufficient mileage in their diesel models.
In 2009 Ford was the first manufacturer to develop a successful small turbocharged petrol engine - the renowned and multi-award-winning 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine - that has contributed hugely to swinging the pendulum in favour of petrol. In the intervening years, following Ford’s lead, practically all manufacturers have developed their own small turbocharged petrol powertrain.
“Our 1.0 litre EcoBoost was the first successful effort to show that a petrol powertrain could produce low emissions to compete with a diesel and deliver comparable fuel efficiency all at a lower cost than a diesel and with lower servicing costs," said McMahon. "The EcoBoost engine has been instrumental in turning the tide in favour of petrol for our top-selling models such as Fiesta and Focus."