New car sales continue falling in July

Car Industry News
The Ford Focus was the best-selling car in July 2017

UK new car registrations fell by more than 9% in July, with demand down across private, fleet and particularly business buyers, according to the results released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Private sales were down by just under 7% compared to last year, with a fall of 10% for fleet sales (the largest market segment) and nearly 24% for business purchasers.

For fleet purchases, this may still be a hangover from the road tax increases in April that produced a record month in March.

UK new car registrations, July 2017

Diesel disaster continues

It was another terrible month for diesel cars, with registrations down 20% on the same month last year. Year-to-date, diesel sales are 85,000 units behind last year’s results, against petrol sales which are 53,000 units up on the same point last year.

The poor diesel results come despite considerable anecdotal evidence of heavy discounting on diesel cars from various manufacturers. A quick check of several car broker sites this week revealed larger deposit contributions being offered for diesel-engined models of numerous cars compared to their petrol-engined equivalents – all linked to PCP car finance plans, of course.

We couldn’t find any published diesel-specific discounts or offers from car manufacturers, but dealership sources have told The Car Expert that at least some brands have “large pots of money” available to help dealers shift unwanted diesel cars on their forecourts.

Nothing to see here

As has been the norm for the last four months, the SMMT release almost completely ignored the disastrous diesel results. Instead, it highlighted the continued growth in ‘alternatively-fuelled’ vehicles (ie – hybrids and fully-electric cars).

While this growth is impressive from a year-on-year perspective, the actual number of vehicles is a mere fraction of what the overall market lost during the month.

AFV registrations reached 5.5% of the overall market, compared to 3% in July 2016. This compares with petrol cars holding almost 52% and diesel cars just under 43% of the total. Nobody expects AFV numbers to go anywhere except upwards, as more and more manufacturers offer hybrid options across their model ranges.

In fact, if the industry is to achieve the government’s plan of replacing all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, the current pace of hybridisation and electrification is woefully inadequate.

For those playing SMMT press release bingo, you will be pleased to know that the usual suspects all turned up, with “Brexit”, “Euro 6”, “AFVs”, “uncertainty” and “government must act” all appearing as usual.

Ford back on top – but not with the Fiesta

Looking at the best-sellers list, it was a month of change throughout the top ten.

In the absence of lots of new Fiesta stock for dealers to sell, Ford dealers have enjoyed a strong month for the larger Ford Focus hatchback. The Focus jumped to the top of the July charts, overtaking last month’s leader, the Volkswagen Golf. The Fiesta fell to fourth, behind the Nissan Qashqai.

It was a great month for the Kia Sportage SUV, which jumped into fifth place from outside the top ten previously. Mercedes-Benz had two cars in the top ten with both the C-Class and A-Class present, and the Audi A3 rounded out the top ten. The MINI hatch and BMW 3 Series dropped back out of the top ten altogether.

Ten best-selling cars in the UK, July 2017

Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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