Diesel cars were quite popular in our market for a long time. Even before the 90s, imported cars with diesel engines were found in good numbers on our roads. And not just bigger sedans, even the likes of Daihatsu Charade were available with diesel engine option back in the 1980s.
The primary reason was the fact that diesel was extremely cheap back then. So much so, that people even used to swap their petrol engines in favor of diesel ones. And then came the 90s when the popularity of diesel cars in our market reached new levels since automakers started to assemble diesel cars locally.
Towards mid 90s Indus Motor Company (IMC) started offering the diesel variants with the 7th gen Corolla which soon saw competition in shape of the B14 Nissan Sunny that was assembled by Ghandhara. However in the next 10 years the Corolla diesel went on to become a champion in its category whereas the Sunny due to Ghandhara’s mishandling was able to see just 1,159 units sold between 1998 and 2004 hardly averaging 165 units a year. In addition to sedans the Fiat Uno was also a locally assembled diesel hatchback that was available in the market.
In forthcoming years, with Nissan Sunny and Fiat Uno going out of the picture, the Corolla diesel became a household name and the base 2.0D, the mid-spec 2.0 SE & top-spec 2.0D Saloon trims with the 7th and 9th generation Corolla– simply called as “o-dee” were not only hot-selling new cars but had a strong demand in used car market as well. They were priced higher than the 1.3L Corolla variants and lower than the 1.6/ 1.8 liter versions. Although the 10th gen Corolla too, saw decent sales of diesel variants in initial years but it was the generation that saw the demise of diesel cars in Pakistan and these cars were eventually discontinued.
During its last years around 2012-13, IMC was even offering huge discounts ranging up to Rs 300,000 on diesel cars but by then the craze of diesel was already suppressed among the masses. So what went wrong with diesel cars which once saw tremendous sales for like 15 years in our market only to be faded into history, let’s have a look at the reasons?
Diesel Became Expensive than Petrol
The primary reason why people loved these cars was the fact that diesel was extremely cheap, almost half of that of petrol. However when Pakistan officially adapted to Euro-II emission standards in 2012, it also took away the subsidies it was giving on diesel which saw prices of diesel shot up quickly and it soon exceeded the cost of per liter petrol by a huge margin. Since there was no charm left with diesel becoming so expensive, people stopped buying these cars.
Fuel Economy No Longer a Charm
The import of JDMs saw plenty of fuel efficient options reaching our market. These include the 660cc kei cars, fuel efficient petrol options as well as the hybrid ones. These JDMs were also better equipped than the ones assembled locally. So anyone looking for economy was able to buy fuel efficient JDMs and hybrids which offered better value for money and would consume a lesser amount of fuel when compared to diesels.
Poor Quality Diesel
Also the quality of fuel sold in Pakistan was questionable. While it was compatible with older technology engines, modern & sophisticated engines be it petrol or diesel were always going to have compatibility issues.
Various models of Corolla diesel in Pakistan
Till 2016, Pakistan alongside Somalia was the only country on the face of earth were RON-87 petrol was being sold. Honda also raised this issue when it had to discontinue its 1.5 liter Civic turbo variants due to bad quality fuel available in the country. Similarly OGRA also fined PSO– the state owned oil marketing firm for selling adulterated diesel. If you remember, the Hilux Revo with D4D engines encountered several blown injector issues due to substandard diesel available in Pakistan.
Furthermore, in 2012 when Pakistan adapted to Euro-II it also required IMC to upgrade the 2C diesel engine in the Corolla to a more sophisticated tech which would have taken prices of these (by then) rather unwanted diesel cars beyond the reach. So it was always better for the company so say goodbye to diesel cars than to keep them active in their product portfolio.
There are still few markets around the world where diesel cars are popular, but with environmental concerns rising and most markets enforcing stricter emission regulations than ever, automakers are now more focused towards hybrids and electrification and diesel isn’t something in their priority list.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com