Consumer new car purchases fell by just under 14% compared to the same month a year ago, according to data published this week.
Some 11,700 fewer cars new were registered in January than during the same month in 2019, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The majority of this fall was due to a drop in private new car sales – down 14% – while fleet sales were down by just over 2%
With the frenzy of Brexit activity reaching a peak in January as the UK finally made good on its 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, customers kept their wallets firmly in their pockets. The industry will now be nervously waiting to see if the market bounces back in February and the all-important registration month of March.
Diesel sales plumb new depths, EVs keep improving
Sales of diesel cars* were down 27% year-on-year, falling below a market share of 20%. This suggests that fleet buyers are following consumers in abandoning diesel in ever-growing numbers. The SMMT press release still talks about “confusion” over diesel cars, but there appears to be no confusion at all from buyers at all – they very clearly don’t want diesel cars.
Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (electric cars, plug-in hybrids, regular hybrids) reached a record market share of almost 12% in January, up from less than 7% in the same month last year.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the figures show Government investment is “powering the electric transition across the UK’s roads”, but the reality is probably somewhat different.
Sales for plug-in hybrids more than doubled from the artificially low numbers a year ago, when a number of plugin models had been temporarily withdrawn from sale due to WLTP compliance dramas. The number of pure electric cars leaving showrooms tripled compared with January 2019 – largely thanks to the new Tesla Model 3, which has been a strong seller since its launch last August.
Neither of these is directly connected to government actions, although ongoing investment in electric vehicle infrastructure will certainly encourage more car buyers to go electric.
*including diesel mild hybrids, which the SMMT has recently decided to report separately
Good times, bad times
While the overall market took a New Year’s tumble, some brands started off 2020 better than others.
On the other hand, it wasn’t as much fun for several other brands. Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Citroën, Dacia, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mini, Renault, Smart, SsangYong, Subaru, Suzuki and Vauxhall all took a double-digit dive in January.
Ford starts the year on top
How will the top ten look by the end of the year? Stay tuned…