New car sales down 6.8% in January

7th February 2018

The Ford Fiesta continued its reign as the UK’s best-selling car in January

Britain’s new car market continued its downward slump from 2017 into 2018 as sales fell by 6.3 per cent in January.

Some 163,615 new cars found buyers last month, almost 11,000 fewer than in January 2017, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Much of the drop-off was due to deflated sales of diesel cars, which fell by a quarter on last January, but some of this was counteracted by a 8.5 per cent rise in sales of petrol cars.

Demand dropped among all kinds of buyers in January, most notably in the business sector, which recorded a 29.7 per cent decline. The retail market retracted by 9.5 per cent as just short of 70,000 new cars went to private buyers, while the fleet market slipped 1.8 per cent.

The sustained drop in new diesel registrations was a major worry for SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

He commented: “The ongoing and substantial decline in new diesel car registrations is concerning, particularly since the evidence indicates consumers and businesses are not switching into alternative technologies, but keeping their older cars running.

“Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, we need government policy to encourage take-up of the latest advanced low emission diesels as, for many drivers, they remain the right choice economically and environmentally.”

Figures from the SMMT illustrate the importance of diesel cars to the UK economy.

In 2017, more than two in five of the cars leaving British production lines were fuelled by diesel, while manufacturers produced more than one million engines – directly supporting 3,350 jobs and providing £8.5 billion to the economy.

The Ford Fiesta continued its reign as the UK’s best-selling car with 8,335 examples finding buyers in January, almost twice as many as the second-placed VW Golf (4,310).

Molly Benton, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, commented: “Words and actions from the UK government regarding diesel cars have issued muddled messages to motorists.

“Simply ditching diesel isn’t the best solution for many drivers, due to their reduced CO2 output and stronger fuel return.”