November marked the eighth month in a row of falling new car registrations for 2017, and once again it was collapsing diesel sales causing the most concern in the latest figures published this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Overall numbers were down 11% on the same month last year, although the majority of these losses were for business and fleet buyers. Private registrations were down by just over 5% compared to last November’s numbers, which is a decent result compared to greater falls over the previous six months or so.
Diesel registrations slumped to new lows, recording just 37.7% of new car registrations in November with numbers that were more than 30% off last year’s figures, which is comfortably the worst performance for diesel in what has been a very bad year. Twelve months ago, diesel cars were still outselling their petrol equivalents, but it looks increasingly unlikely that such days will ever be seen again.
As usual, the SMMT has no compunction in blaming the government for falling diesel sales, although disappointingly Brexit fails to get a mention this month. Hopefully, Santa will deliver the SMMT press office a new record for Christmas, as the current one appears to be broken.
The SMMT regularly talks about “confusion over diesel”, which seems to very much underplay the situation. The numbers show that there is a protracted slump diesel sales in the marketplace – a 30% fall in sales isn’t confusion, it’s a large-scale rejection. Maybe the industry’s representative needs to lobby the government to increase incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles, rather than continuing to flog the dead horse of how wonderful diesel is…
Ford Fiesta gets comfy back in top spot
The Ford Fiesta returned to the top of the sales charts in October, and retained its traditional position in November. The Volkswagen Golf continued its strong run in second place, which also saw it edging away from the Ford Focus in year-to-date registrations for the runner-up slot with only one month to go.
There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for diesel sales, as increased road tax rules will be introduced next April that will put the initial registration duty on almost every new diesel car up by one tax band.
Manufacturers have been starting to add more petrol engine options to models that were previously only or predominantly sold as diesels. The latest is Toyota, which has dropped diesel engines from its Auris family hatchback range for 2018. More of the same is likely across the board as every brand looks to offer alternatives to unpopular diesel offerings.
There will be continued growth in what are called ‘alternatively-fuelled vehicles’ (AFVs). These consist of hybrids, full electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell models, natural gas or LPG power and so on. This year has been one of massive relative growth for AFVs, which have held more than 5% of the overall market for the last six months or so. There is still a long way to go, but it is likely that 2018 will see even greater growth as more manufacturers bring new hybrid and electric vehicles to market.
It’s a buyers’ market this Christmas
For buyers looking for a new car this Christmas, there will be plenty of deals on offer. With most manufacturers and plenty of dealerships falling well behind their quarterly and annual sales targets, there will be plenty of people who would really, really like you to buy a new car before the end of the year.
With eight months of falling new car sales, there will also be an increasing number of pre-registered cars coming into the market after spending a few months parked up in fields around the countryside. A pre-reg car can be a good option in the right circumstances, but you would need to be getting a massive discount for it to be worthwhile given that brand new cars will also be available with very good deals.