Currently reading: Diesel registrations down 31% in November as UK market shrinks
Overall market drops by 11% last month, with industry experts pointing to confusion over recent Government tax changes
Sam Sheehan
2 mins read
5 December 2017

Registrations of diesel cars in the UK were down by 30.6% in November, when the overall market declined for the eighth consecutive month.

In total, 163,541 new cars were registered last month, 11.2% less than in November 2016.

Sales of petrol cars grew 5% to 92,944 units, giving petrol a 56.8% market share – up from 48.1% at the same point last year.

This was accompanied by 33.1% growth in alternatively fuelled vehicle registrations, bringing their market share up to 5.4%. However, these could not counter the 27,163 unit drop in diesels, resulting in a decline in the overall market.

Private registrations were actually down by the smallest percentage, falling 5.1% in November. Business and fleet registrations fell by 33.6% and 14.1% respectively, with the impact of these sectors (which represent a respective 52% and 2.7% of the market) key contributions to last month’s shrinking numbers.

So far in 2017, 2,388,144 new cars have been registered for Britain’s roads – a 5% drop, or 126,620 cars, on the same period last year.

Used car market buoyant despite new car sales slump

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes said: “An eighth month of decline in the new car market is a major concern, with falling business and consumer confidence exacerbated by ongoing anti-diesel messages from the Government.

“Diesel remains the right choice for many drivers, not least because of its fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. The decision to tax the latest low-emission diesels is a step backwards and will only discourage drivers from trading in their older, more polluting cars.”

Hawes explained that the decrease in fleet registrations will have a marked impact on the UK’s air quality improvements, with “detrimental environmental and economic consequences” if the market continues to shift away from the newest, cleanest diesels.

Rupert Pontin, valuations boss at used car database company Cazana, added: “From the [registrations] results, we can only assume that many business buyers have held off changing their cars. It is likely that decision-makers were waiting for the Autumn Budget and there is a possibility of some pent-up demand. Whether the measures taken by the Chancellor in the Budget are right or not remains to be seen. However, at least the industry can be clear on the immediate taxation rules."

Last month, the Government introduced diesel tax hikes that affected both private and fleet buyers. With new legislation announced in the autumn budget, all new diesel vehicles that do not conform to Real Driving Emissions step 2 test standards are subject to an increase in tax.

The step 2 standard doesn’t come into force until 2020, meaning no new models can be graded at that level. The industry has therefore hit back, claiming that the new standards demonise the latest, cleanest diesels, even though some tests (including Autocar’s own) show that they can be cleaner than the equivalent petrol models.

More content:

The government is wrong to penalise diesel drivers


Find an Autocar review

Read our review

Car review
Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2019 road test review - hero front

Range-topping four-pot petrol engine sparks mid-size exec’s mid-life reappraisal

Back to top

Join the debate


5 December 2017

It would be interesting to know if the reduction in diesel sales is due to weakening demand, or reduced supply as a result of manufacturers dropping oil burners.


5 December 2017
LP in Brighton wrote:

It would be interesting to know if the reduction in diesel sales is due to weakening demand, or reduced supply as a result of manufacturers dropping oil burners.


The reality is that manufacturers have a glut of diesel cars. Just look at all the deals you can get right now - dealers are desparate to shift them. 

Trouble is, consumers are wise to it and are turning away from diesels in increasing numbers. And manufacturers don't have answers up their sleeves.

5 December 2017

Diesel fall of 30.6% versus 2016 is the sharpest decline seen so far this year.

A clear sign that consumer confidence in diesel has not yet hit the bottom and there is more bad news for oil-burners to come.

5 December 2017

At last, the mechanically ill-informed now have a reason (saving their children from respiratory diseases , perhaps ?)  not to buy over-weight and inefficient (diesel) SUVs, but instead to revert to 'normal' cars with space: small MPVs (remember them ?) and estate cars. Unless, of course, they want piddly petrol 4-pot with a battery hauling a 2-tonne vehicle....  Will sense prevail ?

5 December 2017

I wonder how many people who abandoned diesel in the last couple of months would have bought one if they had known that the Budget in November would leave them untouched until April?

My next car will be a diesel, and until they also ban household wood burning stoves the goverment can't really be that concerned by air polution.

5 December 2017

Could you not do us all a favour, Oaffie, and get a wood-buring stove instead of a NoX-emitting diesel ? ;-)

5 December 2017

"Business and fleet registrations fell by 33.6% and 14.1% respectively" - thats the real bad news if its down to business confidence.  The private market (if they really wanted a car) will buy petrol/EV instead so any loss in private diesel sales should be balanced out to some degree

5 December 2017

could do their members a favour and pursue VW for compensation from bad press and lost diesel sales. Who said conflict of interests ...

5 December 2017

Broadly speaking, the general public tend to believe and act on what they read, whether it be factually correct or incorrect. They read and hear statements from the Government and move away from diesels and many don't bother to look into the true comparisons of the most modern diesels vs petrols (as Autocar alluded to at the end of this article). A case in point - a relative keeps saying to me "oh don't buy a diesel as the Government are banning them". a proposal in over 20 years time which has been all over the media means I should can my diesel right this second? That's the sort of ignorance going around. It's as clear as day it's all about being able to tax us accordingly. Take a look at the things we have no control but need/want on a regular basis - fuel, alcohol, cigarettes, other taxes we have to pay in general. There's nothing we can do about it and they know it! 

6 December 2017

Diesels won't be banned in the short term

But there is a long term trend against diesels, which will hardly help diesel cars to hold their value. Why take the risk of being lumbered with a car which may slump in value in the future, especially for smaller cars which spend most of their time in town?


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review