Small rise in new car market after five months of decline

After five months of decline the pulse of Britain’s new car market quickened slightly in February with a 1.4 per cent rise in registrations.

New car market
Ford Fiesta remains the UK's favourite new car

Figures released today, March 5, 2019, by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 81,969 new car registrations for February, a year-on-year increase of 1,164 units.

Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles were up 34 per cent, marking the 22nd consecutive month of growth for the segment as new and existing models attracted buyers into showrooms. Registrations of zero-emission electric cars enjoyed growth, more than doubling to 731 units, although they still accounted for 0.9 per cent of the market.

In the four months since the October 2018 reform to the Plug-in Car Grant, the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) has grown by 1.7 per cent, compared with 29.5 per cent over the first 10 months of 2018.

New car market

The drop off in diesel sales continues with a year-on-year decline of 14.3 per cent to 24,284 diesel registrations. Year-to-date figures show an 18.3 per cent drop in diesel sales.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “It’s encouraging to see market growth in February, albeit marginal, especially for electrified models. Car makers have made huge commitments to bring to market an ever-increasing range of exciting zero and ultra-low emission vehicles and give buyers greater choice.

“These cars still only account for a fraction of the overall market, however, so if the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed. The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive measures are needed, or else ambitions will never be realised.”

The news comes as vehicle manufacturers prepare to launch 14 all-new electric and plug-in models at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. According to SMMT, there are around 40 plug-in models on the market in the UK, with over 20 more expected to arrive in showrooms in 2019.

The Ford Fiesta remains the UK’s most popular new car with 3,399 units sold in February, followed by stable-mate Ford Focus (2,537 units), then the Volkswagen Golf at 2,410 units.