While the government leaves it up to local authorities to come up with official diesel scrappage schemes, carmakers have realised that something needs to be done now to slow down sliding diesel car sales figures. We’ve already reported on how BMW has stepped up with its own scheme, which offers owners of older diesels the chance to enjoy €2,000 (£1,800 at the time of writing) off the price of a new BMW or Mini diesel, hybrid or electric vehicle.

Chasing the competition

The scheme has obviously sparked the interest of Mercedes, which has just announced its own programme. Branded the ‘diesel changeover bonus,’ the company is offering owners of any make of diesel between Euro 1 to 4 the chance to trade in their inefficient motor for a plug-in hybrid or Euro 6 diesel-powered Mercedes, with £2,000 off the asking price.

The key difference between the Mercedes and BMW schemes is that the latter states you must have owned your old diesel for a year. Meanwhile, Mercedes says you only need to have owned it for six months. Alas, the range of cars available to purchase from Mercedes is more limited than those in the BMW/Mini range.

Mercedes does offer a small range of hybrid cars that qualify for the £2,000 subsidy (that can be topped up by the Plug-In Car Grant offered by the government). However, those hoping to snare a reduced price on the Mercedes-owned Smart Electric Drive vehicle will only enjoy a £1,000 discount.

Finally, there is further good news for owners of Euro 1 to 3 diesels. Mercedes is offering them the full discount plus compensation, as it will scrap their old cars. The diesel changeover bonus scheme will run to the end of the year. However, like BMW, if it proves to be successful, we wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes extends it.

Ford follows suit

Not to be outdone, Ford has also just announced its own scrappage scheme, stating that it “shares society’s concerns over air quality.” Any Ford registered before 31 December 2009 can be traded in and scrapped in exchange for thousands of pounds off a new Ford. The company estimates that the deal, which runs until the end of 2017, could be help to take hundreds of thousands of the most polluting cars off our roads.

Ford’s incentives are certainly attention-grabbing. They range from £2,000 off the price of a new Ford Fiesta to an impressive £7,000 off the price of a Transit van. Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, comments,

“Removing generations of the most polluting vehicles will have the most immediate positive effect on air quality, and this Ford scrappage scheme aims to do just that.

“We don’t believe incentivising sales of new cars goes far enough and we will ensure that all trade-in vehicles are scrapped. Acting together, we can take hundreds of thousands of the dirtiest cars off our roads and out of our cities.”

Out from under a dark cloud?

Volkswagen is also set to announce a similar scheme in the UK. The company is currently suffering a beating at the hands of governments, the media and an angry public due to the ongoing ‘dieselgate’ disaster. VW’s scheme has already launched in Germany. It offers drivers of any Euro 1 to 4 car the chance to trade in for a VW or Audi with a potentially hefty discount. Of the three German carmakers’ schemes, VW’s is by far the most generous, with discounts of up to €10,000 (£9,000) on select models.

Whether this generosity will be reflected in the UK version, which is expected to launch soon, no one knows. However, we can expect the carmaker’s scheme to remain competitive if VW has any sense, as it can use such discount options to help revitalise its damaged brand.

To the future

The big question remains – are such schemes enough to save the diesel from disappearing under a cloud of NOx? Diesel sales have plummeted by 11% in the past seven months, while petrol sales have grown by 4.3%. Sales of alternative-fuel vehicles have soared by a whopping 41% over the same period. In an AutoExpress interview, Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at the campaign group Transport & Environment, said,

“We anticipate a market share of 40 to 45 per cent for new [diesel] cars as an EU average by 2020, compared to 52 per cent today. After 2020, the market will continue to decline to around 30 to 25 per cent of new cars by 2025.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders’ Mike Hawes remains pragmatic, stating in AutoExpress that “the automotive industry has some of the most challenging CO2 reduction targets of any sector and continues to deliver reductions as it has for nearly two decades.”

He argues that for this trend to continue, “modern low emission diesels and alternative fuel vehicles such as plug-ins, hydrogen and hybrids must be encouraged with long term incentives. Turning our back on any of these will undermine progress on CO2 targets as well as air quality objectives.”

Are such schemes too little too late? Or are they the right move to rehabilitate diesel in the eyes of the car-buying public? Let us know your opinions below.

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