The Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) has urged used car dealers to start preparing for a future shift away from diesel towards petrol.

The trade body said an “inevitable” shift will happen in around two years’ time, with the used car market increasingly mirroring the trend in the new segment, where diesel suffered a 17% fall in volumes during 2017.

Glenn Sturley, chair at the VRA, said that although there would be a time lag, the shift in market shares would eventually transmit to the used market as well.

Sturley said: “The speed of transition to petrol – and also potentially to hybrids – is something that has caught almost everyone by surprise, especially when you look at what is happening in the fleet market, and it will materialise in the used sector in a similar manner.

She added that current composition of the used car park made diesel a forced choice for buyers, but this was set to change as the supply of used petrol cars increased.

“Dealers who have sold almost nothing but diesel models for many years will inevitably find that this is something of a culture shock and a key task will be ensuring that any corresponding reduction in demand for diesels is well managed,” Sturley said.

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She added that the shift was more likely to come in the form of gradual transitioning, rather than an outright price crash, as Euro 5 and Euro 6 engines should help sustain diesel values and attractiveness for customers.

However she added: “There is likely to be a growing number of used car customers who definitely want to buy a petrol model and, against that trend, dealers need to ensure that the advantages of diesels are positively promoted. There has been so much disinformation around in the mainstream press and elsewhere that diesels may well need this kind of support.

“Also, it is important to ensure that the basics of used car retailing are properly maintained, that these vehicles are presented in the best possible condition and with a full history.

“As an organisation, the VRA is monitoring the situation closely and one of our member meetings this year will be dedicated to the issue of managing falling diesel demand.”

While 2017 was a bad year for new diesel cars, the used segment saw a 3.3% rise in volumes, with one in four used cars sold in the UK during the year being a diesel.