New car sales continue to slide in October

The UK new car market declined for a seventh consecutive month in October, with 158,192 new units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Demand fell by -12.2 per cent in the month, as falling confidence among buyers continued to impact the market.

Declines were seen across all sectors, with business and fleet demand down -26.8 per cent and -13.0 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, dealers reported -10.1 per cent fewer private buyers taking delivery of new cars in the month.

Alternatively Fuelled Vehicle (AFV) demand continued to rise, up 36.9 per cent to 8,244 registrations, while petrol models enjoyed a more modest growth of 2.7 per cent. However, these gains were unable to offset heavy losses in the diesel segment, as continuing consumer concerns resulted in its biggest hit yet, with demand down -29.9 per cent.

Year-to-date, the overall market is down -4.6 per cent on 2016 levels, with 2,224,603 cars registered in the first 10 months. This aligns with SMMT’s latest forecast for 2017, published last week, with the market expected to end the year on 2.565 million units – a -4.7 per cent decline.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new car market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel. Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK.

“We urge the government to use the forthcoming Autumn Budget to restore stability to the market, encouraging the purchase of the latest low emission vehicles as fleet renewal is the fastest and most effective way of addressing air quality concerns.”

NFDA on diesel decline

Commenting on the figures, Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK, said: “Despite the October new car market declining by -12.2 per cent, the Alternative Fuel Vehicle segment grew by 36.9 per cent. Although the continuous increase in alternative fuel vehicles’ sales is encouraging, in the short and medium term, they will not fully replace petrol and diesel cars. Going forward, we must ensure that consumers have the accurate facts and information to be able to choose the car best suited to their needs.”

Robinson continued, “The significant decline in sales of diesel vehicles shows that consumers have been affected by current media and government coverage. Modern Euro 6 diesel cars cannot be compared to older diesel models.

“Consumer footfall is stable, with a particular interest in the used car market which remains at high levels. It is crucial that consumers continue to receive support and the government must send clear messages about its future plans.

“While the majority of forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have recently been revised, this year’s performance remains in line with initial predictions of a -5 per cent decline.”

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