Diesel car sales continue to decline in SMMT figures

Sales of new diesel cars have continued to decline against a rise in plug-in and hybrid vehicles, data published by the car industry today has suggested (5 November).

The figures which cover January to October 2018, were published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), and indicate that overall new car sales have dipped by around 7.2% compared to the same period last year, with just under 2.1 million cars having been registered for sale in 2018.

Sales of new cars have continued to decline, SMMT figures indicate

Looking at sales by fuel type – diesels make up a smaller proportion of the overall number of cars sold compared to previous years, the figures suggest, with 656,000 having been registered for sale to date in 2018, compared to 946,000 during the same period in 2017, a drop of around 30%.

As a result of the declining diesel sales, petrol cars make up a total of 62.3% of new cars registered for sale during 2018, compared to 53% in 2017 – while diesel holds around 31.8% of the market share.

SMMT has previously blamed confusion over air quality plans as contributing to the decline in sales – with older, more polluting diesel cars seen as a major contributor to nitrogen dioxide air pollution in towns and cities.

Market share

Against the backdrop of declining car sales overall, alternatively fuelled vehicles have made further gains in market share, making up around 5.9% of the overall car sales during 2018, compared to 4.5% in the same period 12 months earlier.

In total 121,000 alternatively fuelled vehicles have been registered for sale throughout the year.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which make up the majority of AFV sales, enjoyed ‘strong uplifts’ SMMT said, growing 31.0% and 19.1% respectively.

However, a part of this rise may be linked to the recent announcement that the Plug-in Car Grant is to be cut for pure electric cars and withdrawn completely for plug-in hybrids, SMMT added (see airqualitynews.com story).

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive

Commenting on the figures, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “VED upheaval, regulatory changes and confusion over diesel have all made their mark on the market this year so it’s good to see plug-in registrations buck the trend. Demand is still far from the levels needed to offset losses elsewhere, however, and is making government’s decision to remove purchase incentives even more baffling.

“We’ve always said that world-class ambitions require world-class incentives and, even before the cuts to the grant, those ambitions were challenging. We need policies that encourage rather than confuse. Government’s forthcoming review of WLTP’s impact on taxation must ensure that buyers of the latest, cleanest cars are not unfairly penalised else we will see older, more polluting cars remain on the road for longer.”

Registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles are expected to grow +82.5% from 2017 levels by 2020 according to forecasts published by the SMMT.

Up to 92,620 new plug-in hybrid and battery electric cars expected to be sold in the same year – taking market share to around 4.0%, which, SMMT adds is at the lower end of government’s 3-7% stated ambition.