New car registrations show sixth consecutive month of decline

Despite an upsurge in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV), figures from SMMT show a sixth consecutive decline in new car registrations for September.

35,000 plug-in cars were registered in the UK during 2016

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures show that a total of 426,170 new units were registered in September, 2017, which represent a fall of 9.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2016. Year-to-date figures show 2,066,411 registrations, which is a fall of 3.9 per cent but still at a historically high level.

The decline in sales has been attributed to economic and political uncertainty, and confusion over air quality plans.

Demand from business, fleet and private buyers all fell in September, down -5.2 per cent, -10.1 per cent and -8.8 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, registrations fell across all body types except dual-purpose, which grew 2.4 per cent. The biggest declines were seen at opposite ends of the market with luxury saloons and superminis falling -36.4 per cent and 21.2 per cent respectively.

Demand for AFVs gained pace in September, surging 41.0 per cent in the month and 34.6 per cent year-to-date, with nearly 95,000 leaving forecourts this year. However, this couldn’t compensate for declines in registrations of petrol cars, down -1.2 per cent, and, especially, diesel which fell for the sixth consecutive month, down -21.7 per cent.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “September is always a barometer of the health of the UK new car market so this decline will cause considerable concern.

“Business and political uncertainty is reducing buyer confidence, with consumers and businesses more likely to delay big ticket purchases. The confusion surrounding air quality plans has not helped, but consumers should be reassured that all the new diesel and petrol models on the market will not face any bans or additional charges.

“Manufacturers’ scrappage schemes are proving popular and such schemes are to be encouraged given fleet renewal is the best way to address environmental issues in our towns and cities.”