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Fall in fleet and business sales as new car market declines

Date: 05 February 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The UK new car market fell by 1.6% year-on-year in January, with fleet and business sales a significant factor.

According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) figures, fleet registrations were down by 3.4%, while business registrations - classed as to organisations with fewer than 25 vehicles - plummeted by 33.5%, though these make up less than 2% of the overall market.

In contrast, private registrations were up by 2.9%.

Demand for new diesel cars continues to fall dramatically, with their market share down 20.3% in January.

Petrol car registrations were up by 7.3% - taking 64.1% of the overall market - while alternatively-fuelled car registrations were up by 26.3%, though this was still only good enough for a 6.8% market share.

The SMMT predicts that by the end of the year plug-in cars - included in the latter figure along with conventional hybrids - will have a 3.7% market share, but warns this is at the 'lower end' of government ambitions, saying there is a need for greater purchase incentives and charging infrastructure investment.

Reacting to the overall January sales figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "It's encouraging to see car registrations in January broadly on par with a year ago as the latest high tech models and deals attracted buyers into showrooms.

"This, however, is still the fifth consecutive month of overall decline in the market.

"To restore momentum, we need supportive policies, not least on vehicle taxation, to encourage buyers to invest in new, cleaner vehicles that best suit their driving needs - from the latest petrols and diesels to an ever-growing range of exciting electrified vehicles. 

"This would be good for the environment and good for the industry, and those who depend on it." 

The Ford Fiesta, perennial market leader, was on top again in January with 5,399 registrations, ahead of the Ford Focus on 4,397.

The top five was completed by the Nissan Qashqai (4,270), the Volkswagen Golf (3,930), and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (3,768).