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The so-called ‘swing from diesel’ is put in further perspective today as a senior motoring executive insists the trend towards petrol is only ‘right and proper’.

Ciaran McMahon, Ford Ireland’s managing director and chairman, says people bought diesels when they really should not have.

They have since learned lessons and are changing back.

Latest SIMI figures show more and more people are choosing petrol (and hybrids and electric vehicles) over diesel.

Mr McMahon does not mention hybrids which are gaining substantial sales as people move away from diesel but are not taking the full step to an electric vehicle just yet.

The Ford chief’s comments are hardly outrageously provocative but they do serve to highlight why petrol buying has increased.

Critically, they make an important distinction on the motives behind fewer people buying diesels.

Mr McMahon recalls how many migrated to the now out-of-favour fuel after the emissions-based motor taxation system was introduced in 2008.

He says that while a petrol model would have been the correct choice for many motorists, thousands bought diesel.

They did so even though their annual mileage “was not enough to justify the extra cost of diesel”.

Critically, he distinguishes between two different reasons drivers are leaving diesel.

There are those doing so on environmental and/or health grounds and those who realise they don’t need one because they put up such low annual mileage (under 10,000kms for example).

So there is a massive re-balancing afoot – back to pre-2008 days in many ways. Diesel still commands a substantial percentage of new-car buying even if it is much lower than in the distorted ‘diesel tax era’. As such, it is still a long way from being dead in the eyes of many experts here.

Mr McMahon also stresses how, historically, many new diesel-converts were not aware that particulate filters need an occasional long run at motorway speeds to burn off the particles of soot and carbon that are trapped in the filter.

“If you don’t do that, the filter becomes clogged and can lead to having to install a new one at considerable expense.

“Our dealers have told us this was happening for a proportion of typically urban motorists who were not driving sufficient mileage in their diesel cars.”

Finally, it is also obvious, but important, to note that petrol technology has made it much easier to switch to petrol. Ford claim to be the first manufacturer to have developed a small modern, turbocharged petrol engine (the 1.0 litre EcoBoost). Nowadays virtually every manufacturer has its own equivalent.

* Have you switched to petrol or hybrid? Why?

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