Industry figures show new car registrations were down 15.7% in March compared with the same period last year, however, it’s not all doom and gloom as registrations are still running at a historically high level and last month’s market was the fourth biggest March on record.
The figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, show the market fall is thanks to a dramatic but not unexpected decline in the popularity of cars with diesel engines.
Continuing the recent trend, diesel registrations declined in March, down -37.2%.The decline in demand for diesel cars continues to be of concern and the latest tax changes announced by the government do nothing to encourage consumers to exchange their older diesel vehicles for new lower emission models.
Economic and political uncertainty and confusion over air quality plans also continued to affect confidence, resulting in declines across all sales types.
Registrations of plug-in and hybrid vehicles continued to rise, up 5.7%, with demand for plug-in hybrids driving growth, up 18.2% for the month.
Registrations of petrol cars were essentially stable, up 0.5%. Despite a decline of its own, Ford is still the leading manufacturer in this country, having recorded 81,957 registrations from January 1 to March 31.
The Ford Fiesta was March’s best seller, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and the Nissan Qashqai.
Mike Hawes, chief executive at the SMMT said: ‘March’s decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month last year. Despite this, the market itself is relatively high with the underlying factors in terms of consumer choice, finance availability and cost of ownership all highly competitive. Consumer and business confidence, however, has taken a knock in recent months and a thriving new car market is essential to the overall health of our economy.
‘This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles. All technologies, regardless of fuel type, have a role to play in helping improve air quality whilst meeting our climate change targets, so government must do more to encourage consumers to buy new vehicles rather than hang onto their older, more polluting vehicles.’
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