UK Car Registrations Fall Sharply In March

The overall market fell by approximately 12 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

Demand for diesel new cars dropped by more than a third in March, while fleet and business registrations fell by 15% compared to the same month a year ago, according to new figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Sales of diesel cars have plummeted in the United Kingdom as "economic and political uncertainty" over the government's air quality plans are dampening confidence, according to the motor industry's trade body.

"While the mammoth 15.7% decline on March past year can be, in part, attributed to consumers rushing to beat the changes to VED that came into force in April 2017, the ongoing bafflingly negative narrative has talked the sector into retreat", he said. Registrations of gasoline cars were essentially stable, up 0.5%.

Continuing the recent trend, diesel registrations plummeted 37.2 percent to 153,594 in March from 244,593 in the same month of 2017.

Fall in diesel demand continues, down -37.2% compared to same month a year ago, with AFVs up 5.7% and petrol holding steady at 0.5%.

It said demand from business, fleet and private buyers all fell in March, down 14.3 per cent, 15 per cent and 16.5 per cent respectively.

But Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine, said low consumer confidence and uncertainty around the future of diesel vehicles "continue to have an impact".

Ashley Barnett, head of consultancy at Lex Autolease, said: "Even though last year's March numbers were boosted ahead of new Vehicle Excise Duty taxation changes coming into force, this is the first year-on-year decline we've seen in seven years". However, almost 720,000 new high-tech, low-emission cars left forecourts in the first quarter of 2018 as consumers took advantage of competitive offers, meaning last month's market was still the fourth biggest on record. A new SMMT study of economic figures highlights the broader industry's impact on adjacent sectors from logistics, retail and distribution to auto finance, fuel, maintenance and insurance.

March's decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month a year ago. "Despite this, the market itself is relatively high", SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.

"March's decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month past year", SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said regarding the latest data.

The SMMT argues that the utilising all fuel types can help reduce air pollution with the real target being consumers who hold on to older, more polluting vehicles.