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Positive end to negative year for new car sales

However, it looks like several manufacturers have been pre-registering a lot of cars to boost their numbers...

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Some good results for new car registrations in December will have brought some Christmas cheer to the car industry at the end of another year of falling sales.

Overall new car registrations for 2019 were just over 2.3 million, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which was a fall of more than 2% compared to 2018 and the lowest results since 2013. However, it was very much in line with expectations at the start of the year so hardly a surprise.

December’s results showed an increase of more than 3% compared to the same month last year, but this was all thanks to fleet registrations. Private new car sales were almost exactly the same as last December.

For the whole-year figures, it was much the same story. Private new car sales were down by more than 3%, while fleet regisrations were up by just under 1%. Although they only make up a small fraction of the overall numbers, small businesses bought 34% fewer cars than last year.

Diesel still falling, EVs starting to gain traction

Sales of new diesel cars continued to slide in December, with almost three petrol cars sold for every diesel car. For the whole year, diesel’s market share (including mild hybrids, which are now counted separately for political purposes) fell by more than 5% and now account for barely more than a quarter of all new car sales.

It was a strong end to the year for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, however, as well as regular hybrids. These made up just under 10% of the market, just below November’s peak of just over 10%.

In terms of whole-year sales, the numbers still don’t look great for battery power, but if the growth in the last six months continues into 2020 then this will start to look far more respectable at long last.

Good times, bad times

Several manufacturers recorded impressive results in December, which when combined with the growth in fleet registrations suggests that some brands have been pre-registering a *lot* of cars to boost their numbers.

In other cases (like Audi), big year-on-year gains are more to do with the fact that they had a terrible month this time last year.

Some brands ended 2019 on a low note, with Abarth (-63%), Alfa Romeo (-22%), Infiniti (no sales at all), Jaguar (-19%), Lotus (-50%), Maserati (-50%), Mercedes-Benz (-15%), Mini (-15%), Mitsubishi (-54%), Smart (-90%), SsangYong (-35%) and Vauxhall (-51%) recording double-digit declines compared to last December.

Golf wins the month but Fiesta still holds 2019 top spot

November’s biggest-selling model, the Vauxhall Corsa, fell back out of the top ten altogether in December, bringing its yo-yo year to a end ahead of the all-new model arriving in January. It appears Vauxhall dealers have finally run out of stock, with the Corsa only adding about 600 sales to its total.

Instead, it was another run-out model that took sales honours in December, with the Volkswagen Golf edging out the overall 2019 champion, the Ford Fiesta. The rest of the top ten looked a little different to normal, with the BMW 3 Series, Tesla Model 3 (simply listed as “Other”) and Vauxhall Grandland X all making an appearance.

As usual, we’ll look at the top ten models in more details later this week, as well as reviewing the whole year in the new car market.

The latest from The Car Expert

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive 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.