What do urban bans of diesel cars mean for consumer policy?

BEUC NEWS – 17.09.2018

Diesel cars have long been popular among Europeans. But their impact on air quality, and implication in emission scandals, is changing public and political perceptions. With the advent of urban diesel bans, consumer groups now advise policy-makers on how to mitigate their impact on our daily lives.

BEUC position paper: What do local bans of diesel cars in cities mean for consumer policy?
In February 2018, Germany’s Federal Administrative Court issued a landmark ruling which allows cities to restrict access to diesel vehicles. This ruling was probably the most striking development of a series of announcements made over the past few months across Europe on the future of diesel.

Diesel bans and consumer policy

Any diesel ban has significant implications in terms of consumer policy. European consumer groups reflected on the question: What about consumers owning a vehicle potentially affected by a ban?

To mitigate their effect on people’s daily lives, European consumer groups call on car manufacturers to take three actions:

  • Immediately update the emissions control software on all Euro 5 and 6 diesel vehicles.
  • Upon request, reequip potentially affected diesel cars with the latest exhaust treatment technology (the so-called ‘hardware change’).
  • Offer consumers a ‘conversion premium’ by which the owner of a diesel vehicle can give it back in exchange for a cleaner car.

The paper also asks policy-makers to consider the following questions:  

  • What is the best way to avoid diesel vehicles, prohibited in western European cities, flooding central and eastern European markets through a cheap second-hand market?
  • How do policy-makers intend to properly inform motorists about where they can drive, and where not?

The future of mobility and consumers
Today’s paper forms part of consumer groups’ reflection on the future of mobility and the role of consumers therein. The main action for policy-makers here is to forge a long-term plan to clean up and decarbonise road transport.

Many factors contribute to this: the availability of cleaner cars, resale values of existing cars and new ownership models. The following study sheds light on this and analyses four different ownership models, including ride-hailing and ‘mobility as a service’.  

NOTE: This study complements the BEUC position on diesel bans. The participants in this study do not necessarily endorse the views of today’s position paper.