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2018 sees UK fleet car market decline as diesel demand collapses and CO2 emissions rise

Date: 07 January 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

New car registrations in the UK fell during 2018, with the greatest decline affecting the fleet sector. 

As part of a 6.8% fall in the overall market, the number of registrations to fleets was down 7.3%, compared with a 6.4% fall in private registrations. There was also a 5.6% drop in business registrations, which are classed as to firms with fewer than 25 vehicles.

The market also saw a continued collapse in demand for diesel cars, for which sales were down 29.6%. 

Petrol car registrations were up 8.7%, and alternatively fuelled car registrations were up 20.9%. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which has released the figures, said diesel car owners were adopting a 'wait and see' approach to replacing their vehicles amid anti-diesel rhetoric and negative fiscal measures, but warned this meant they were keeping older, more polluting vehicles for longer.

The SMMT has also released data showing that for the second year in a row the average CO2 emissions from new cars sold went up by 2.9%, to 124.5g/km. 

It said that while a switch to tougher emissions testing was part of the reason for this, the move away from diesels also had a significant impact.

Commenting on the sales figures, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "A second year of substantial decline is a major concern, as falling consumer confidence, confusing fiscal and policy messages and shortages due to regulatory changes have combined to create a highly turbulent market. 

"The industry is facing ever-tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand, so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers. 

"Supportive, not punitive, measures are needed to grow sales because replacing older cars with new technologies, whether diesel, petrol, hybrid or plug-in, is good for the environment, the consumer, the industry and the exchequer."

Monthly figures for December have also been released, showing an overall 5.5% market decline year-on-year.