The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has launched a campaign to challenge what it describes as increasing demonisation of diesel and raise consumer awareness about the latest low-emission car technology.

A Diesel Facts guide will be available online and in leaflet form via car makers and dealers. The SMMT said it was reacting to consumer research that revealed widespread confusion about diesel technology which, if uncorrected, could limit adoption of the latest low emission vehicles and undermine the UK’s efforts to meet strict air quality and climate change obligations.

Responding to a YouGov poll, 87% of UK adults said they were unaware of the latest Euro-6 vehicle emission technology, while 54% incorrectly blamed cars and commercial vehicles as the biggest cause of air pollution in the UK. Just under one in five (19%) of people surveyed correctly identified power stations as the biggest contributors of nitrogen oxides (NOx). 

The SMMT will also urge policy makers and local authorities considering imposing measures such as increased charges for diesel cars to avoid penalising one fuel technology over another.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Today’s diesel engines are the cleanest ever, and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality. Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view.

“We need to avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another and instead encourage the uptake of the latest low emission vehicles by consumers. The allegations against diesel cars made in recent months threaten to misguide policy making and undermine public confidence in diesel. It’s time to put the record straight.” 

Graeme Grieve, CEO BMW Group UK, said: “Diesel cars produce, on average, 20% less CO2 than equivalent petrol cars and so have a vital role to play in helping to arrest climate change. It is only if British drivers continue to choose diesel cars that the UK can meet its tough CO2 targets. Great strides have been taken to transform diesel engine emissions technology and continued, major investment from the industry is making them even cleaner.” 

Mark Ovenden, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, said: “We support customer choice and the market should determine the best technologies for meeting CO2 and air quality goals. Ford is committed to offering clean and efficient petrol and diesel engines, as well as the choice of electrified options.

“In terms of diesel, it is important to underline that today’s and tomorrow’s advanced diesel powertrains are vastly cleaner than in the past and are approaching parity with petrol engines when it comes to emissions that affect air quality, while at the same time delivering important CO2 benefits.”