Buying a new diesel car after Diesel-gate

I really enjoy driving my diesel powered Audi around Germany but when Diesel-gate hit, I was pretty shocked. It definitely took some of the pleasure out of the car knowing that, although I am pretty environmentally conscious, I have unwittingly been unnecessarily making things worse.

Before I moved to Germany 5 years ago I had only ever had a petrol car, and actually spent much of the time without a car at all, priding myself on using a mixture of bikes, public transport and the occasional use of a car sharing scheme. But on moving to Germany and managing the international house-move I realised that this is a difficult country to go car-less in especially if a family is involved. So I bought a fuel efficient, reliable, safe car…. which brought me to a diesel Audi.

I don’t need to explain what happened with Diesel-gate but the upshot is that many countries are swearing off diesel, and later petrol, with an aim to go fully electric (if the technology and city planners ever catch up). Ironically this includes Germany, home of the worst diesel offenders, where many major cities are banning older diesels from the city centres in 2019.

What does it mean for Frankfurters?

The price of second hand diesels has already plummeted so I decided to hold and wait to see what the deal is. Like many diesel owners in the area, I got a letter from the city telling me that my diesel car is banned from the ‘Umwelt Zone’ (environmental zone) in Frankfurt. (This also goes for smaller satellite towns like Bad Homburg). Essentially, this region is formed by the triangle made around Frankfurt by the A3, the A5 and the A661. So everywhere in Frankfurt…

From 1st Feb, any diesels category Euro 4 or below are banned, and from 1st Sep Euro 5 is also banned. If you aren’t sure what your category is, here is how to find out. Or just look at the number in the little green car registration document that proves ownership.

Although the city aren’t ready just yet with the full range of checks to enforce the y do know your home address and the car that is registered there. So if you live inside the ban, there isn’t much hiding. Fines haven’t been fixed yet but levels for other cities vary between €20-80 per infringement. If they think that you are intentionally breaking rules, this could double.

Full info on what is happening is in this article from Hessenschau (German only). If you need to upgrade your car, there are government subsidies and some dealerships also offer incentives although some, like Audi, were only until end of last year. I recommend going to some car dealerships and getting your car valued before deciding where and how to sell.

Thanks Audi…

So bearing this happy news in mind, I decided to talk people at my local official Audi dealership. After all, they kind of mis-sold me the car so at least I can expect a little sympathy, contrition or at the very least useful advice… I know, what was I thinking?

I explained that I need a new car this year, due to the ban, and was directed to a range of shiny new vehicles in the showroom. So far so good, although I hate the thought of devaluation on a new car, I didn’t expect anything less from a competent sales person. The problems arose on the question of diesel or petrol.

Now, when working in sales, I can guarantee that trying to belittle, dismiss or generally make a customer feel stupid for asking a question is a guaranteed way to lose business. I really didn’t expect that from one of the companies that caused the diesel problem in the first place. When told that for the number of kilometers I drive, diesel is the only realistic choice for me, I simply asked whether it was risky buying another diesel after everything that has happened.

The trouble is, I see the advantages of diesel cars still. The new engines are far cleaner (allegedly), it does a lot more miles to the gallon, starts regularly in cold weather, and is still cheaper than petrol (for how long though?). But the question is more about ethics, the environment, and trust. And I just don’t trust the companies enough to give them more money, I don’t believe they should still be pushing the cars as hard, and I am sure that the government are going to make it financially less and less attractive to own diesel and probably petrol as well soon.

The Audi sales person, however, couldn’t shut me down quick enough: Of course it is fine, you can’t imagine how clean the engines are now, the technology isn’t even comparable to what you have (a 2011 model). Essentially, why would we even sell diesel still if it wasn’t perfectly fine?

Right now I am plotting to write a blog post on how to survive in Frankfurt without a car 🙂

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