ALTHOUGH it was anticipated, the massive drop in diesel sales in the UK has left the automotive market aghast.
Figures released show sales of diesel cars dropped by 25.6 per centin January and there will be worse to come as company fleets are on the verge of a green revolution.
Data from Sewells Research & Insight's twice-yearly Market Barometer found that 71 per cent of fleets currently operate diesel cars, but only 59 per cent expect their replacement cars to be fuelled by diesel.
Petrol cars will take up most of the slack in the short-term, although by far the most dynamic growth will be in sales of hybrid and electric cars.
The Market Barometer suggests that as many as 30 per cent of fleets expect to run hybrid cars within the next 12 months, and a further seven per cent will have pure electric cars on their books by the end of the year.
This represents a dramatic increase from the 12 per cent of fleets that currently have at least one hybrid car, and the three per cent of fleets which have a battery-powered car.
Corporate fleets (employing 250-plus people) are leading the way towards a lower emission future, with 47 per cent expecting to replace some of their cars with hybrids this year, and 16 per cent preparing to run electric cars.
Essential vehicle users, such as utility companies, transport firms, and construction businesses are at the forefront of the move to cleaner emission vehicles, according to Sewells.
The research specialist also found that the upper medium, executive and dual purpose (SUV and MPV) sectors of company car are set for the most significant change in fuelling policy, with hybrid alternatives replacing diesel models, while electric cars gain a toe hold.
Simon Staplehurst, commerical research director, Sewells Research & Insight, said: "The Market Barometer reveals that fleets intend to switch to cleaner, lower emission cars much more quickly than many people in the industry expect. The fleet sector has passed the tipping point from a default to diesel towards a greener future."