Workers assemble cars in the Hyundai Motor India plant at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Photo: Reuters

Indian car buyers’ preference for diesel models has plunged as the gap between petrol and diesel fuel prices has narrowed. In 2012, the price difference between the two fuels was Rs 27 (42 US cents) a liter, but now it is down to Rs 10 (16 US cents).

The sale of cars that run on diesel variants – hatchbacks and sedans, excluding SUVs – has slumped from nearly 50% in 2012-13 to 23%, The Times of India has reported.

The trend has been stark for the Indian unit of Honda, the Japanese carmaker. Its overall sales of diesel cars fell from two thirds (67%) in 2013-14 to a quarter at the end of 2016-17.

Industry experts claim the trend is only going to get stronger as the government pushes for cleaner technologies like electric vehicles.

For environmentalists, this is good as diesel cars are seen as bigger polluters than cars that run on petrol.

Currently, Indian cities figure prominently among the world’s most polluted cities with four listed in the top 10 late last year – and Gwalior and Allahabad second and third on the list.

However, an exception to this rule is the SUV segment. Diesel is traditionally the preferred choice for SUVs and some companies don’t even have petrol models. However, the preference toward petrol is gaining ground in this segment too.