At the Paris Motor Show, which will open on Saturday, diesel will be a dirty word.
That is a huge change for the prestigious, biennial international show, which used to celebrate the power, durability and economy of diesel engines — the dominant type of automotive motor in Europe.
The Paris event has also long served as an every-other-year showcase for the French automakers Renault, Peugeot and Citroën, whose robust production of diesel-power machines was considered a symbol of the country’s manufacturing might.
But diesel’s reputation has been sullied during the last two years by the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, as well as by revelations that the European regulation of diesel emissions by various carmakers has been surprisingly lax.
At the 2014 show, many of the major automakers praised diesel engines as the clean and modern answer to transportation and environmental challenges. Electric cars, or even hybrid gas-electric models, were still seen as outliers.
This year, the automakers at the Paris show will be highlighting their diesel alternatives — cars powered by gasoline engines, electric motors or hybrids of the two.
Mercedes-Benz is rushing an all-electric sport utility vehicle to the show, the first of four new electric vehicles the German automaker plans to produce by 2020.
Mitsubishi will introduce a range of gas-electric hybrids and all-electric vehicles. General Motors’ Opel unit plans to unveil the Ampera-e, the European equivalent of the Chevrolet Bolt.
Toyota will show off new Prius models with enhanced electric operation. Nissan’s Infiniti luxury flagship brand will demonstrate a new 2-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine described as providing V6 power and diesel-caliber fuel economy.
And even Volkswagen wants to demonstrate how fast it can shift marketing gears, by introducing new electric vehicle technologies at the show.
Existing diesel engines will not be immediately relegated to the scrap heap, of course. Most high-volume models, especially those from the French automakers, will still be available with a range of diesel engine options. But there will be new emphasis on gasoline-engine equivalents, despite significantly higher prices for gasoline compared with diesel fuel in Europe.
Even Paris, which has hosted the Mondial de l’Automobile, as the show is officially known, since 1898, is turning its back on diesel.
To address Paris’s notoriously bad air quality, the municipal government since July 1 has banned cars that were registered before 1997 from operating on the streets weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The target of the ban was primarily older diesels.
By 2020, environmental activists predict, all diesels might be banned from Paris.