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‘Back diesel’ call as car sales slump 6% in 2018

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Registrations of new cars in the UK fell more than 6% in the first half of 2018, the slide blamed on lack of consumer confidence and a continuing diesel backlash.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) showed a 3.5% decline in registrations in June. This reversed a 3.4% rise in May, which itself was blamed on a ‘blip’ in the May 2017 figures caused by changes to road tax.

So far in 2018, the market is down 6.3% on the same point last year, with 1.3 million cars registered. The past six months have seen strong growth in petrol car demand, up more than 11% to 812,535, and also growing interest in alternatively-fuelled cars such as plug-in hybrids and EVs. These have climbed 24% with 72,847 registered, buyers reacting to the greater choice in the market as more manufacturers turn to these technologies.

However, these growth areas cannot compensate for a continuing slide in diesel demand, registrations down 30% in the last six months to 428,612. The diesel figures are now almost half those of petrol whereas for most of the past five years the two have seen almost equal demand.

SMMT June The Car Expert

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes is again calling for diesel to be given a fair chance in the market. He urges a ‘technology neutral’ strategy from Government and more backing for the latest-technology cleaner diesel engines after what he describes as “a rocky first six months” for the industry.

“It’s great to see demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles continue to rise, (but) given these cars still represent only one in 20 registrations, however, they cannot yet have the impact in driving down overall emissions that conventional vehicles, including diesels, continue to deliver,” Hawes says.

“Recent government statements acknowledging the importance of petrol and diesel are encouraging – however, we now need a strategy that supports industry investment into next-generation technologies and puts motorists back in the driving seat, encouraged to buy the car that best suits their needs – whatever its fuel type.”

The Ford Fiesta continues to dominate the new car top ten, its 56,415 registrations in 2018 more than 14,000 ahead of the second-placed Volkswagen Golf. Notably, two Mercedes-Benz models make the top 10 including the C-Class, long-time rival in the premium market to the BMW 3 Series.

SMMT top Ten June The Car Expert

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.