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UK new car market improves despite fleet sales decline

Date: 05 March 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The number of new cars registered in the UK in February rose slightly year-on-year, despite a small fall in demand from fleets.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), overall registrations were up by 1.4% compared with February 2018.

Fleet registrations were down by 1.3%, but this was more than made up for by demand from private buyers, to whom registrations were up by 4.3%.

Business registrations - classed as to firms with fewer than 25 vehicles - rose by 23.4%, but these still accounted for only 1.5% of the overall market. 

Interest in diesel cars continued to decline, with registrations down by 14.3%, meaning the fuel achieved only a 29.6% market share.

Petrol car registrations were up by 8.3%, giving them a 64.9% market share, while alternatively fuelled vehicles saw demand surge by 34%, equating to a 5.5% market share. 

The SMMT highlighted how registrations of zero-emission electric cars saw particular growth, with demand more than doubling, although they still made up less than 1% of the overall market.

It has also drawn attention to how, since the government's Plug-In Car Grant for plug-in hybrids was scrapped in October 2018, the market for these vehicles has only grown by 1.7%, compared with 29.5% over the first 10 months of 2018, which it says suggests that removing the incentive is having an adverse effect.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "It is 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." 

Perennial market leader the Ford Fiesta led the way again during February with 3,399 registrations, ahead of its larger sibling the Ford Focus with 2,537.

Rounding out the top five were the Volkswagen Golf (2,410), the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2,059) and the Volkswagen Polo (1,512).