Thirty-seven percent of South African motorists say they will still choose diesel vehicles over petrol vehicles even though recent studies show up to 38,000 people die prematurely as a result of diesel engines exceeding their stated emissions standards.

This is one of the findings in a recent survey by the Automobile Association (AA).

According to the data, 56% of respondents say they prefer diesel over petrol engines, with only four percent say knowing of the deaths related to exceeding emissions standards will change their minds.

“South African motorists must, however, begin to realise diesel engines may be on their way out. Internationally carmakers are being forced to adhere to stringent emissions standard or face hefty fines.

“These car makers are grappling with tough choices to either re-engineer existing (diesel) engines are huge costs, restrict sales of some profitable models, or risk hundreds of millions of euros in penalties. While this is not yet a big debate in South Africa, the impact of these decisions will have far-reaching consequences for the local market,” the AA said.

Sales of diesel vehicles also tell a story, specifically in Europe. Sales of diesel cars in Europe were sharply down in 2017 sparking concern that the decline in second-hand values would lead to a total collapse of the diesel vehicle market.

Mounting pressure on international car makers to meet imminent European emissions standards for new vehicles is also foretelling the fast-tracking of the demise of these engines.

“While the results of our survey still indicate a diesel favourability, we would urge motorists to carefully consider their options when buying new or used diesel vehicles. If European car makers begin reducing production of these cars, the effects will be felt on after-sales servicing, and parts.

“Local motorists can no longer ignore these signs which are coming through strongly from the European market,” the association said.

Among the other results is that 60% of respondents say having full electric vehicles available locally is a good idea, this despite the fact that these vehicles are still relatively new to the South African market. The AA says this is a good alternative for motorists, but warns charge stations, and the availability of clean, reliable electricity, may play a role in decision-making.

“Electric vehicles are certainly an option, especially for those conscious about the environment. However, South Africa still lags behind other countries in making charging stations readily available everywhere, especially on the scale which meets demand. And, while electricity supply seems stable for the moment, sustained availability remains a concern,” says the Association.

The same survey polled motorists on the use of dashcams (dashboard cameras) in vehicles. An astonishing 82% of respondents say this is a good idea with only five percent disliking the idea. More than 50% of those surveyed say dashcams would make them feel safer on South African roads if they were installed in their vehicles.

“What is interesting is that 63% of respondents say they will support a law specifying compulsory dashcams to be installed in all motor vehicles in the country,” the AA said.