UK car registrations fell for the third consecutive year in 2019, dropping 2.3% to 2.3 million cars according to preliminary figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Following 2016’s high, registrations have now fallen 7.5% - the equivalent of 580,000 registrations across the year.
While that figure puts the UK market at a seven-year low - with 2013’s 2.26m registrations restricted by an economy emerging from recession - it is still ahead of the ten-year average, albeit with that figure skewed by the collapse of registrations to below 2.0m at the height of the recession in 2009.
Last year’s fall came despite 2018’s supply of new vehicles being severely restricted by the requirement to re-homologate them to meet new emissions regulations. Despite that artificial drop, during 2019 nine of the 12 months recorded year-on-year registrations falls.
Why did 2019’s new car registrations fall?
Private registrations fell 3%, while fleet registrations rose around 1%. Highlighting that split, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the fall was chiefly down to consumer confidence being low in light of political and economic instability and public confusion over the legislative approach to Euro 6 diesels, particularly in upcoming clean air zones. While petrol registrations rose 2.3%, diesel registrations fell 21.8%, making up just over 25% of the market and falling to its lowest market share since 2003.
“Consumer confidence for big ticket items just isn’t there at the moment, and there’s clear evidence of that impacting car sales,” said Hawes. “It’s also evident that people are confused about clean air zones and whether diesels will be allowed in them. The Government approach is that they should be and that they can be part of the solution, but the situation needs clarity and to be uniformly applied - we don’t want a patchwork of regulations.”