Holiday tendencies

The automotive world has little to offer during the summer months (that is, summer to those in the northern hemisphere), as can be attested by the overall lack of noteworthy news from any manufacturer. Perhaps Frankfurt will change that in September, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

But an autophile never rests his observational skills, and even when lazing on holiday, one still takes in a lot of auto-related givens. A couple of years ago, while completely aloof to the goings on of car makers, I wrote about how everyone who goes on holiday seems to drive a diesel, while last year I couldn’t give a toss about writing anything and stuck to doing nothing while on holiday. This year I stayed at home, because the recession’s gone into top gear (pun intended) and there just isn’t enough dosh to go away during August. The consequences of the economy doesn’t stop there and one thing that I’ve noticed is that most new cars I see are small, petrol-engined hatchbacks and such. I’ve seen Citroen C3’s and Smart Fortwos as sort of dominant new cars, whereas up until now there was a strong tendency for crossovers like Nissan Qashqais, or Audi A5s, BMW estates and E-class Mercs.

It’s not just the fact that people are going for smaller cars that makes an impression. To see how they’re going for petrol-sippers shows how expensive diesel’s become, and the extra cost of a brand new diesel isn’t so easily compensated by its lower consumption and fuel price tag. A brand new, four-door supermini, like a 207 or a Clio or any other car of the sort, with a small 1.1 or 1.2l petrol engine, might set you back some €15,000, but a diesel version (1.4 or 1.5l) will easily cost more than €20,000 (here in Portugal, it’s cheaper in the rest of Europe). Using the manufacturer’s fuel consumption figures, and current petrol and diesel prices, you need to do more than 100,000km (60,000 miles) to offset the extra cost if you bought a new diesel supermini. Keeping in mind that, statistically, superminis usually don’t even last that long, petrol makes a lot of sense. Especially if you take into account that after, ooh I don’t know, let’s say 100,000km, you can slap in an LPG kit that makes a petrol car more or less the same price to run than an equivalent diesel (the tendency is for LPG to be less expensive, but that depends on each case).

So this could be the return of petrol, after the last ten-odd years dominated by the rise of diesel. But it won’t make much of a difference though, because fuel prices will just keep going up to compensate.


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