The inevitable market dominance of electric vehicles and the obsolescence of diesel vehicles for all but the biggest pickups may seem like a foregone conclusion in the U.S., especially given current policy. But looking at Europe as a whole—as well as some other markets of the world—EVs until recently hadn’t passed diesels in the car sales charts.
That’s why it’s a particularly bold commitment for the Swedish automaker to say farewell to diesels. Volvo says that by early 2024 it will build the last diesel-powered Volvo car, and it claims to be one of the first legacy carmakers to take that step.
“Our decision to completely phase out diesels by early 2024 illustrates how rapidly both the car industry and customer demand are changing in the face of the climate crisis,” said the automaker in a release accompanying the announcement. “Only four years ago, the diesel engine was our bread and butter in Europe, as was the case for most other car makers.”
Volvo, which hasn’t for decades sold diesels in the U.S., says that the majority of its sales in Europe are now made up of EVs and plug-in hybrids. But across Europe, and across other brands, the pace of progress is going to be much slower.
2024 Volvo XC60 Black Edition
According to S&P Global, fully electric vehicles overtook diesels for the first time this June—and with the arrival of more affordable electric models, the market for diesels was down 9.4% than a year earlier. S&P sees sales of EVs, plug-in hybrids, and fuel-cell models combined to add up to 70% on the Continent in 2030, up from 19% in 2022.
Most other European automakers plan to keep making diesels for many years. Four years ago, BMW’s board member then in charge of development, Klaus Fröhlich, told Automotive News that it would sell new diesels for at least 20 more years and gasoline vehicles for at least 30 more years. BMW decided to drop diesels in the U.S. in favor of plug-in hybrids back in 2018.
Earlier this month, at the Munich auto show, Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius told Reuters that it doesn’t expect its lineup to be all-electric by 2030, although it will be ready.
Volkswagen, hit hard last decade by its diesel emissions scandal, has said that it plans to leave the combustion vehicle market in Europe in 2033 to 2035, and it hasn’t distinguished between gas and diesel for that retirement date. Although VW has emphasized the importance of affordable EVs. And Stellantis has thinned out its diesel offerings in Europe and elsewhere as it introduces more affordable electrified models.