Press Release

There are now 51 million dirty diesel cars on EU’s roads

September 18, 2019

The number of dirty diesel cars and vans [1] on European roads has reached 51 million, four years after the Volkswagen scandal was exposed, a new report by green NGO Transport & Environment finds. The analysis shows an increase by 18% over the past 12 months and a 74% rise since 2016. Considering that Volkswagen is alleged to have installed defeat devices on more cars than thought, the number of dirty diesels might actually be higher.


The calculations, which are based on vehicle sales since 2008 as well as on new real-world emissions data, show that carmakers continue to sell dirty diesels. Almost one-fifth of these polluting cars and vans are in Germany (9.9m), followed by France (9.8m) and the UK (8.5m). Together with Italy, Spain and Belgium, these six countries represent 81% of the EU dirty diesel fleet.

The Volkswagen Group is responsible for more than a fifth of all grossly polluting diesel cars and vans in the EU (11.6m). French carmakers Renault-Nissan (8.1m) and PSA Group (7.2m, not including Opel and Vauxhall) also account for a major share of the dirty vehicles.

Even if the questionable software recalls currently underway are incorporated, the numbers of dirty diesels would only drop slightly by 16% to 42.5 million, provided these are carried out in full and to uniform quality across all Member States.

The main reason for the continued increase in the number of dirty diesels is the decision of carmakers to maximise profits by selling their existing diesel models, instead of investing in cleaning them up. Since 2015 when dieselgate broke the top five carmakers that sold over two-thirds of dirty diesels have made over 125 billions of euros in profits. The European Federation of transport NGOs says that recalls must be coordinated across the EU and should require effective fixes like in the US, while national vehicle authorities must stop dirty models from being registered and sold.

Florent Grelier, clean vehicles engineer at Transport & Environment, said “It’s outrageous to see the number of dirty diesels on Europe’s roads rising and reaching over 50 million. This is because carmakers prioritised profits over people’s health. Regulators must stop turning a blind eye to the main source of toxic air and force carmakers to get clean now.

Diesel engines are the main source of nitrogen dioxide emissions (NO2). According to the European Environment Agency, exposure to NO2 caused the premature death of an estimated 79,000 people across 41 European countries in 2015.


Notes to editor:

[1] Defined as Euro 5 and 6 diesel vehicles with NOx emissions at least twice above the limit (for NEDC tests) or at least three times above the limit (for real-world data).

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