Falling diesel car sales in January are the leading reason for an overall decline in the UK car market in the first month of the year.
The news reflects a continuing trend: in 2017, UK car sales dropped by 5.7%, with a 17.1% decline in diesels. However, diesels were hit even harder towards the end of last year, with a fall of 31.1% from July to December.
The number of diesel-engined cars sold in the UK dropped by 25.6% in January, contributing to an overall decrease of 6.3% (or 162,615 units sold) compared with the same month last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Petrol car sales rose by 8.5% and alternatively fuelled vehicles (electric and hybrid models) by 23.9%, but both of these increases failed to offset the ongoing fall in diesel registrations.
As a result, diesel market share now holds only 36% of the overall market. In the past, it has accounted for more than half of all cars sold. Electric and hybrid models are slowly gaining ground with 5.6% market share, compared to 3.5% in January last year.
The SMMT, talking about the diesel fall, said "confusion over government policy continued to cause buyers to hesitate," referring to ongoing miseducation about brand new diesel cars having the same detrimental effect on air quality as older, diesel cars.
By contrast to the UK, the overall German car market is expected to be up 12% in January, a source told Automotive New Europe, but diesel sales are set to have declined by 17%.
The hit on diesel has also affected UK car manufacturing: last week, it was announced 2017 production was down 3%. The downturn was largely attributed to poor domestic demand thanks to “declining business and economic confidence and confusion over government’s policy on diesel”, said the SMMT at the time.