New auto registrations fall by fifth as diesel is written off

Diesel new car demand down by a third as fleet and business registrations also fall

Demand for diesel new cars dropped by more than a third in March, while fleet and business registrations fell by 15% compared to the same month previous year, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Despite the sizeable fall, March 2018 is still the fourth biggest on record for new vehicle numbers.

Sales of diesel cars have plummeted in the United Kingdom as "economic and political uncertainty" over the government's air quality plans are dampening confidence, according to the motor industry's trade body.

For the year to date, the new vehicle market is down 12.4% compared with the same period in 2017.

Registrations of plug-in and hybrid vehicles continued to rise, albeit modestly, up 5.7%, with demand for plug-in hybrids driving growth, up 18.2% for the month.

Registrations for alternative fuel cars rose 5.7%, but this was not enough to offset the 37% decline in diesel vehicle registrations. That's according to new figures from the UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

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Weakening consumer confidence in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote has also been blamed by the industry body and some dealership bosses for faltering registrations in Britain over the last 12 months after record highs in 2015 and 2016. Although the United Kingdom is expected to be the worst-performing new vehicle market in Europe in 2018, it remains the second largest and demand is still surprisingly high.

It marks a year in decline for the country's new auto sales, as a variety of factors including Brexit uncertainty, changes to vehicle tax rates and the so-called "demonisation of diesel" cause buyers to hold off on upgrading their vehicle.

In the first quarter of this year 146,614 of these vehicles hit British roads, an increase of 2.7%, as the inclement weather appeared to lead to a boost in registrations. A new SMMT study of economic figures highlights the broader industry's impact on adjacent sectors from logistics, retail and distribution to auto finance, fuel, maintenance and insurance. On the road, the vehicle fuel industry supports 40,000 jobs, and a further 347,000 are employed in vehicle servicing and fix.

Sandy Burgess, the SMTA chief executive, said: "We have experienced a dramatic drop-off in registrations year-on-year of nearly 21 per cent..."

"This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles".

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