Porsche has become the first big-name European car company to announce that it is withdrawing all diesel models from sale.
In fact, Porsche has already ceased production of diesel cars, with the last Macan SUV diesels rolling down production lines last week. Diesel-powered models of the Cayenne SUV and Panamera saloon had already been discontinued as part of their last model-year updates.
In a statement to several car enthusiast websites, Porsche cited a “cultural shift” away from diesels, although the company also pointed out: “Diesel engines traditionally play a subordinate role at Porsche.” It is believed that diesel models made up only 15% of all Porsche sales in 2017, with that number likely to keep falling if the manufacturer persisted with a diesel offering.
The very idea of a diesel Porsche has been controversial since the brand first introduced a diesel Cayenne in 2009, with the qualities of a diesel engine seeming to be at odds with Porsche’s sporting ethos.
Tainted by the Volkswagen Dieselgate disgrace
However, it’s not quite as simple as Porsche deciding that there isn’t enough demand to keep offering diesel models. Along with its fellow Volkswagen family brands, Porshce has been locked in battle with German regulators (KBA) for months over emissions-cheating Dieselgate software in its diesel models.
Unlike Porsche’s trademark flat-six engines used in its sports cars, the diesel engines for its SUVs and saloons were simply taken from its Volkswagen parent with minimal tweaking to differentiate them from the same units found in common old Audis and Volkswagens. And this is how Porsche got caught up in Dieselgate.
Porsche has been severely embarrassed by its involvement in the Volkswagen Group’s Dieselgate scandal, with both Macan and Cayenne SUV models caught up in controversy over emissions cheating. The Porsche statement pointedly noted that: “Porsche does not develop or build diesel engines itself,” suggesting that Dieselgate is still a touchy subject in Stuttgart.
The company has had to issue a recall on Cayenne diesel models, and the KBA has refused to approve Audi’s proposed “fix” for the Macan diesel engine, meaning Porsche cannot sell that car and may have to buy back every diesel Macan it has ever built. In the face of these troubles, killing its diesel models altogether was perhaps the easiest solution.
It is believed that Porsche sued sister brand Audi for €200 million in damages last year over manipulated diesel engines supplied by Audi for the Macan and Cayenne. Porsche was also forced to axe its successful Le Mans-winning sportscar racing programme as part of Volkswagen’s show of penance for its Dieselgate disgrace, although it has announced it will enter the all-electric Formula E series in 2019.
In stark contrast to its lack of unique diesel powerplants, the company has been investing heavily in its electrification programme, with the first fully-electric production Porsche model set to be unveiled in the next year or so.
It seems likely that other niche and luxury brands will consider following Porsche’s example in ditching diesel fairly soon. Brands like Maserati and fellow Volkswagen family brand Bentley have only recently started offering diesel models, and may be fairly pragmatic about killing off diesel models as soon as sales start to slide.