Diesel auto demand continues to decline

Demand for new diesel cars in Britain nosedived by more than a third in March, generally the top selling month of the year, pushing down total registrations by 15.7 percent, in a further blow to the segment which faces levies and bans worldwide.

There were 245,446 units registered to fleet and business last month, compared to 288,618 units during March 2017, equating to a market share of nearly 52%. The size of the decline in March may be an outlier, but new auto registrations have now been falling steadily for 12 months, and manufacturers are starting to worry that the decline may be a long term trend as economic and political uncertainty and confusion over air quality plans continue to affect confidence.

Diesel's market share has dropped from 43.5 per cent in March 2017 to 32.4 per cent at the end of last month, continuing the downward spiral for the fuel badly damaged in recent years by air pollution scandals and the threat of tougher local restrictions on city centre driving. Overall the entire fleet increased by 5.7 percent on previous year, although hybrids shot up by 18.2 percent.

Despite the drop, though, the SMMT said registrations were still at a "historically high level" and noted that March was still the fourth biggest month on record.

Weakening consumer confidence in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote has also been blamed by the industry body and some dealership bosses for faltering registrations in Britain over the last 12 months after record highs in 2015 and 2016.

"Despite this, the market itself is relatively high with the underlying factors in terms of consumer choice, finance availability and cost of ownership all highly competitive".

The decline in demand for diesel cars continues to be of concern and the latest tax changes announced by the government do nothing to encourage consumers to exchange their older diesel vehicles for new lower emission models. This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles. Some 8,413 new electric cars were registered in March 2018, up nearly 13 per cent on March 2017, while a further 14,756 hybrid cars hit the road.

The Ford Fiesta remained the country's favourite auto, with 19,272 units sold in March alone.

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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