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Fleet sector bucks annual fall in new car sales

Date: 06 January 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The UK new car market was down by 2.4% in 2019, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, the fleet sector did outperform the rest of the market, seeing a 0.8% rise year-on-year, which meant it accounted for 53.3% of overall registrations.

Private registrations fell by 3.2%, while business sales, classed by the SMMT as to fleets with fewer than 25 vehicles, dropped by 34.4%, though these made up only 2.6% of the overall market.

It was another bad year for diesel car registrations, which were down by 21.8%, accounting for just 25.2% of all new cars, while petrol registrations rose by 2.2%, accounting for 64.8% of the market.

There was a 144% jump in electric car sales, meaning they took a 1.6% market share in 2019, while hybrids were up by 17.1% for a 4.2% overall share.

Plug-in hybrid registrations fell by 17.8%, accounting for 1.5% of the market.

Diesel mild hybrids saw a 740.5% jump due to greatly increased model availability, taking a 1.4% overall market share, while petrol mild hybrids were up by 172.1%, good enough for a 1.1% market share.

The SMMT has also announced monthly sales figures for December, which showed a 3.4% overall market increase, including a 7.3% rise in fleet registrations.

Reacting to the annual statistics, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "A third year of decline for the UK new car market is a significant concern for industry and the wider economy. Political and economic uncertainty, and confusing messages on clean air zones have taken their toll on buyer confidence, with demand for new cars at a six-year low.

"A stalling market will hinder industry's ability to meet stringent new CO2 targets and, importantly, undermine wider environmental goals.

"We urgently need more supportive policies: investment in infrastructure; broader measures to encourage uptake of the latest, low and zero emission cars; and long term purchase incentives to put the UK at the forefront of this technological shift. Industry is playing its part with a raft of exciting new models in 2020 and compelling offers but consumers will only respond if economic confidence is strong and the technology affordable."

The SMMT has also published data showing that official average CO2 emissions for new cars sold in 2019 rose for the third year in succession, by 2.7% to 127.9g/km.

The organisation blames this chiefly on the adoption of the more stringent WLTP vehicle testing regime, although it says segment shifts and the decline in diesel were also factors.