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Suzuki and Mitsubishi move to nix diesel cars in Europe

Tighter environmental rules push Japan's automakers to abandon once-favored fuel

Japanese automaker Suzuki ceased production of diesel-powered cars at Hungarian facilities this summer.
Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor ceased production of diesel-powered cars at Hungarian facilities this summer.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Suzuki Motor aims to halt European sales of diesel cars by the end of the year, while Mitsubishi Motors also plans to pull diesel passenger autos from key markets like the U.K. and Germany in response to stronger environmental regulations.

The withdrawal by the two automakers leaves Mazda Motor as the only major Japanese player still focusing on diesel cars for Europe. Peers such as Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor likewise have said they will back out. Mazda has continued to bet big on diesel despite the industry trend.

Diesel's relatively low carbon dioxide emissions compared with gasoline had made it a popular option in Europe, but the tide has turned since news broke of Volkswagen's widespread emissions data falsification in 2015. Diesel's share of cars on European roads fell to 44.4% last year from a recent peak of over 50% in 2011, and this figure looks set to dwindle to 32.5% in 2022, according to U.K. research firm IHS Markit.

Suzuki has decided to remove diesel vehicles from its new-car lineup for Europe, having already ceased to produce existing models that use the fuel in Hungarian facilities this summer. Diesel comprised less than 10% of the 281,000 autos Suzuki sold in Europe for the year ended March 31, with two compact sport utility vehicle models contributing to the total.

But the automaker will keep the fuel alive in the Indian market, where diesel makes up about 30% of its car sales.

Mitsubishi's British and German sales companies have stopped offering new diesel models of SUVs and other passenger cars, and similar moves appear likely in France and other markets, though the automaker will continue selling pickup trucks that run on the fuel. Diesel cars accounted for about 52,000, or roughly 30%, of Mitsubishi's European unit sales for the year through March 2018.

The U.K. and France have vowed to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, while Germany's top administrative court ruled in February that municipalities could ban the operation of certain vehicles in order to improve air quality.

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