Diesel sales have moved past the one-third mark in Western Europe, as customers continue switching to more fuel-efficient powertrains.

According to figures from diesel consultant AID in Great Britain, sales of vehicles powered by diesels increased 8.4% in the year’s first half in Western Europe, although overall vehicle sales declined 1.7%. That performance raised the market share of diesels to 34.5%, from 31.3% in the first half of 2000.

More than half the cars sold in Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Spain are diesels. In Germany, Europe’s largest car market, diesel sales rose to 33.3% of the total. Of 16 countries tracked, diesel sales fell off in Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The trend shows no sign of stopping. The market share for diesels in July in Germany and Italy was higher than the average for the first six months.

New diesel engines such as the 1.4L produced by a Ford Motor Co.-PSA Peugeot Citroen joint venture will add to the movement later in the year, when sales mount for the new Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3 in the supermini class.

The Volkswagen AG Polo also is new this fall, offered with a 75-hp, 1.4L TDI turbodiesel shared with the Lupo. o