The UK new car market dipped in February, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). 80,805 new cars were registered, a -2.8% drop compared with February 2017, in what is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year ahead of the March number plate change.
Continuing recent trends, demand for petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rose in February, up 14.4% and 7.2% respectively, with the former driven by some new, smaller models coming to market. Registrations of new diesel cars declined -23.5%, a disappointing performance given the latest low emission vehicles can help address air quality issues.
So far this year, the UK new car market has declined -5.1%, with registrations by business, private and fleet buyers all down, -29.8%, -7.1% and -2.1% respectively.
Meanwhile, double digit growth for petrol and AFVs has been unable to offset the move away from diesel, which now commands a 35.6% market share. The discrepancy in demand suggests diesel car owners are keeping their older cars for longer.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, says: “Although the new car market has dipped, it remains at a good level despite the drop in demand for diesel. Consumers should be reassured, however, that the latest cars are the cleanest in history and can help address air quality issues, which is why they are exempt from any restrictions.Looking ahead to the crucial number plate change month of March, we expect a further softening, given March 2017 was a record as registrations were pulled forward to avoid VED changes.”