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Annual UK car sales fall for first time in six years

Date: 05 January 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The annual number of new cars sold in the UK fell last year - the first drop in registrations since 2011.

Data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), shows that the market declined by 5.7% in 2017, with a final total of 2,540,617 registrations.

This included a 4.5% drop in fleet registrations, and a 7.8% drop in business registrations.

The year ended with a 14.4% drop in overall registrations for the month of December - the ninth successive month of decline.

The annual figures showed a 17.1% decline in diesel registrations, which the SMMT has warned undermines progress on CO2 emissions, with other figures released today showing on average these increased from new cars sold in 2017 for the first time since 1997.

There was better news for the electrified car market, which saw a record 34.8% increase, with almost 120,000 registered, achieving the sector's highest-ever annual market share of 4.7%.

Demand for petrol cars also rose by 2.7%.

The SMMT added that, despite the overall decline, new car registrations in 2017 were still the third highest in a decade.

Reacting to the sales figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "The decline in the new car market is concerning but it's important to remember demand remains at historically high levels.

"More than 2.5 million people drove away in a new car last year, benefitting from the latest, safest, cleanest and most fuel efficient technology.

"Falling business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly taking a toll, however, and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car.

"Keeping older vehicles on the road will not only mean higher running costs but will hold back progress towards our environmental goals.

"Consumers should be encouraged to buy the right car for their lifestyle and driving needs irrespective of fuel type - whether that be petrol, electric, hybrid or diesel as it could save them money..

Hawes explained that 2017 had been a very volatile year and said that the lacklustre economic growth means that the SMMT expects a further weakening in the market for 2018.

Making the continuing case for diesel, the SMMT says its calculations show drivers of diesel-powered D-Segment family vehicles, SUVs and executive cars can save an average of between £300 and £400 a year on their fuel bills. Across all body types, the average is £132 a year.

On the subject of CO2 emissions, Hawes added: "Diesel cars, due to their greater fuel efficiency, typically emit on average 20% less CO2 than the equivalent performance of a petrol-engined vehicle.

"New technologies, including the latest low emission diesels, are vital if the country and the industry are to meet their climate change targets.

"For the industry, hitting the 2020/2021 goals will be extremely challenging and government must create the right policies and incentives to encourage all low emission vehicles irrespective of fuel type, whether that means battery vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen or petrol and diesel models.

"Fleet renewal is the fastest way to lower our carbon emissions and improve air quality and consumers should buy the right car for their driving needs."