New car sales fall in 2017 despite third strongest year in a decade

Written by Molly

Britain’s new car market retracted for the first time in six years during 2017, according to annual figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, with more than 2.5 million new cars sold, 2017 was actually the third strongest year in a decade, suggesting that, in reality, all remains well in the UK new car market.

Some 2,540,617 new cars were registered last year, marking a 5.7 per cent drop on the 2,692,786 units shifted in 2016 after December saw registrations fall for the ninth month running (down 14.4 per cent).

Much of the decrease was due to a 17.1 per cent drop in diesel sales, but petrol sales actually grew by 2.7 per cent over the last 12 months.

No single market sector was to blame for the overall decline, with registrations down across the board; demand from private retail buyers fell by 6.8 per cent, while fleet and business sales slipped 4.5 and 7.8 per cent respectively.

“Confusing anti-diesel messages”

While diesel sales suffered a cut of 17.1 per cent in 2017, the SMMT said diesel remains the right choice for many motorists despite the anti-diesel rhetoric, especially those who travel longer distances. This is due to their lower CO2 output, stronger fuel economy and dramatically reduced air quality emissions.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes admitted 2017’s registrations decline was concerning, but pointed out that demand remained at historically high levels.

He added that deflated confidence among businesses and consumers was “undoubtedly taking a toll”, and slammed “confusing anti-diesel messages” for making many hesitate before buying a new low-emission diesel car.

Mr Hawes explained: “Keeping older vehicles on the road will not only mean higher running costs, but will hold back progress towards our environmental goals.”

The SMMT boss urged consumers to “buy the right car for their lifestyle, irrespective of fuel type – whether that be petrol, electric, hybrid or diesel – as it could save them money”.

Ford’s Fiesta [pictured] was the year’s best-selling car, just as it has been since 2009. Some 94,533 Fiestas were sold in 2017, which is almost 20,000 more than the next biggest-selling model: the VW Golf. The Focus, Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Corsa completed the year’s top five.

Molly Benton, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, comments: “Depleted car sales aren’t a glowing commendation for the UK economy, but it’s important to bear in mind that 2017 was the third strongest year in a decade and demand remains very rife compared to previous years.”


Posted on 5th January 2018

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