United Kingdom vehicle sales fall in March completes full year of decline

Diesel new car demand down by a third as fleet and business registrations also fall

The declining figures represent a snapshot of an industry struggling with uncertainty around Brexit, decline in diesel demand and a particularly strong March previous year, when buyers seized the chance to purchase cars before new Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates came into force that April.

"March's decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month previous year".

Diesel vehicles are known to emit lower levels of Carbon dioxide than petrol vehicles, thus helping to reduce the impact of transport on climate change, and have therefore enjoyed favourable taxation rates compared to petrol cars.

Overall auto registrations were also down by 15.7 percent as many buyers sought to purchase vehicles before new tax rates were introduced seeking to discourage diesel usage.

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Consumers continued to ditch diesel cars last month for automobiles that are regarded as more environmentally-friendly.

The fall in overall demand was fairly uniform across different types of buyers, with private registrations down 16.5%, fleet registrations down 15%, and business registrations (to fleets with less than 25 vehicles) down 14.3%.

The UK Government's new diesel tax hike was introduced this month and requires new models that drink from the black pump to conform to the Euro 6d emissions standard, which isn't due to come into force until 2020.

In the first quarter of this year 146,614 of these vehicles hit British roads, an increase of 2.7%, as the inclement weather appeared to lead to a boost in registrations.

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"That way, the one in six drivers (18 per cent) we know are interested in buying an electric in the next two years, have the confidence - finally - to make the change, knowing that there are enough public charging points to support their choice". 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. "The new van market is a key barometer of business confidence and while uncertainty remains, a degree of fluctuation in demand is to be expected this year". "Despite this, the market itself is relatively high", SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: "Consumer and business confidence ... has taken a knock in recent months and a thriving new vehicle market is essential to the overall health of our economy".

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.

"This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles", he said.

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