Annual new car sales down for the first time since 2011

  • Overall demand down by 5.7%
  • Big drop in new diesel vehicle sales
  • UK still the second-biggest car market in EU

December 2017 represented the ninth consecutive month of sales decline for the UK new car market, with overall demand falling by 5.7% in 2017. Much of the decline has been down to the 17.1% downturn in sales of diesel vehicles, following a swathe of negative press surrounding their high output of nitrous oxide emissions.

Despite the drop in sales, the 2017 figures are still the third-highest in a decade at over 2.5 million and the second-highest in the EU behind Germany.

Increase in demand for SUVs and alternatively fuelled vehicles

Although not enough to make up for the shortfall in new diesel vehicle registrations, sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars hit record highs with growth of 34.8% to almost 120,000 units. Demand for petrol vehicles rose slightly by 2.7%.

As seen in previous years, superminis, small family cars and SUVs continue to be the most popular choices of vehicle. Only the latter bodystyle saw market growth, however, with one in five new cars sold in the UK now an SUV.

Ford Fiesta still the UK’s bestseller, Vauxhall sales tumble

With the all-new eighth generation Fiesta launching in 2017, Ford’s supermini cash cow remains hugely popular and tops the sales charts with 94,500 units sold in the UK in 2017. Some way behind in second is the Volkswagen Golf on 74,600 units, while the Ford Focus sits in third with 69,900.

Vauxhall dropped to third place in the registrations table, the PSA-owned (Peugeot Citroen Group) brand selling 52,000 fewer cars in 2017 than 2016 – a drop of 22.2%. DS Automobiles (the premium arm of PSA) and Jeep also saw significant falls in demand for their products, with sales figures down 42.9% and 54.7%, respectively.

Don’t be discouraged from buying a diesel urges SMMT chief

SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, commented: ‘Falling business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly taking a toll, however, and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car.’

‘Keeping older vehicles on the road will not only mean higher running costs but will hold back progress towards our environmental goals. Consumers should be encouraged to buy the right car for their lifestyle and driving needs irrespective of fuel type – whether that be petrol, electric, hybrid or diesel as it could save them money.’

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