2.54m registrations still marks third highest figure in a decade; diesel drop-off drives fall
Jim Holder
5 January 2018

New car registrations fell for the first time in six years in 2017, dropping 5.7% to 2.54m vehicles. This is chiefly as a result of falling consumer confidence, worsening exchange rates and concerns over the future of diesel according to industry body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Although 2.54m registrations marks a drop on 2016 figures, it is the third largest registrations year in a decade and the sixth best since records started in the 1950s. It also follows a hugely successful year in 2017. 

“We must keep perspective: this is not the industry falling off a cliff edge - it is a retraction from exceptional highs in the face of significant challenges,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, who predicted a further fall of 5-7% over the course of 2018.

Brand by brand break down - the winners and losers of 2017's new car market

The drop came despite a record-breaking first three months of 2017, stimulated by buyers rushing to beat VED tax changes in April. Most markedly, diesel registrations dropped dramatically in the final half of 2017; they fell 31.1% year-on-year in December (against an overall year-on-year decline in registrations of 14.4% in December), and 17.1% year-on-year across all of 2017. Registrations of petrol cars in 2017 grew marginally by 2.7%.

Private registrations declined by 6.8%, with fleet registrations down 4.5% and business registrations falling by 7.8%.

“Diesel has suffered from confusion among consumers about its environmental impact, but we believe there is increasing clarity about the benefits of the latest engines,” said Hawes. “There is strong evidence that diesel owners have held off replacing their cars until they get clarity rather than simply going out and buying a petrol car instead, and our belief is that many of them will return to the market this year.”

Hawes suggested that government announcements around the banning of petrol and diesel engines from 2040 - later revealed to be inaccurate - plus the imposition of increased VED and company car taxes from April 2018 were to blame for consumer confusion.

Scrappage schemes - all you need to know

“Diesel is far from dead,” said Hawes, who predicted it will account for 40% of registrations - more than 1,000,000 cars - in 2018. “Everyone needs to understand that there are right types of technology out there for different types of driving. If you drive high mileages or a larger vehicle, then the latest diesels will often offer significant benefits.

“Of course, we need to make the case for it clearer, and we have the facts regarding CO2 and NOx improvements to bear that out. The environmental impact is clear: without an uplift in diesel sales, we have no chance of hitting the required CO2 targets.”

The average CO2 figure for cars registered in 2016 was 120.1g/km, which rose to 121.04% in 2017; last year is the first year since records began in 2002 that the figure has risen year-on-year.”

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric car registrations made up 4.7% of the market in 2017, the highest percentage yet, accounting for 119,000 of the 2.5m registrations. That is a rise of 34.8% from 2016.

Of that number 13,500 were electric cars. “We are making progress, but it is clear that there is a long journey to go on to earn the support of consumers,” said Hawes.

Superminis, small family cars and SUVs continued to be the most popular market segments in the UK, with the latter now accounting for one in five new cars sold in the UK. The SUV segment was also the only market segment to grow in 2017.

Read more

Brand by brand break down - the winners and losers of 2017's new car market

Scrappage schemes - all you need to know

Government announces all cars sold in UK after 2040 must be electrified 

Insight: is it time to give up on the diesel engine?

Our Verdict

Peugeot 108
The Peugeot 108 is the French car firm's rival to the Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10

New-shape baby Peugeot fares well with improved rear end and small engines. Can it threaten the class leaders?

Join the debate

Comments
17

5 January 2018

"without an uplift in diesel sales, we have no chance of hitting the required CO2 targets"

What a load of rubbish.

The manufacturers themselves are pushing their alternative fuel prowess - whether it be hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric. All of which can offer better emissions than diesel - both CO2 and NOx.

So now time to put-up or shut-up.

5 January 2018

CO2 output from cars has already grown to the the decrease in diesel sales, there simply are not enough electric/hybrid cars///odels on sale or made for all cars to be electric or hybrid at the moment, this will change ober time but until then and until most cars are electric, diesel has a part to play in the matket, not least to keep CO2 emissions down. Sorry if this doesnt sit well with your bigotted opinion. I also hope that you dont have coal fire/wood burning stove, or ever attend a bonfire on bonfire night/have a bonfire in your garden - these things are 1000s of times worse than diesel car emissions. Again, sorry if the facts dont sit with your bigottry.

XXXX just went POP.

5 January 2018

"Of course, we need to make the case for it clearer, and we have the facts regarding CO2 and NOx improvements to bear that out. The environmental impact is clear: without an uplift in diesel sales, we have no chance of hitting the required CO2 targets"

Pure PR, as the diesel ship takes on water. So, the reason to buy diesel would be to reduce CO2? An interesting spin vs. the NOx figures...

5 January 2018

Saw a 10 year old Suzuki Swift today and it looked no more than a couple of years old.

You may wonder where I'm going with this but I'm using the Swift as an example of how car sales are being affected by the fact they're so well build/designed and therefore lasting a lot longer.

Case in point: Escort MK1 9 years 100,000 miles, Focus 15 years 200,000+ the longevity of cars these days is making an impact and should be noted by journalists.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

5 January 2018

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

Spanner

5 January 2018
Spanner wrote:

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. Very intellectual, 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

All very well spouting facts and figures,but, what it comes down to is, how long will this mini boom last...?, Brexit we are told hasn’t really shown it’s Teeth yet, Cars aren’t bought in the old hashioned sense anymore, more on finance and PCP’s and simular, I don’t know about you but cleaner more efficient  Transport can’t come soon enough......

Peter Cavellini.

5 January 2018
Peter Cavellini wrote:

Spanner wrote:

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. Very intellectual, 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

All very well spouting facts and figures,but, what it comes down to is, how long will this mini boom last...?, Brexit we are told hasn’t really shown it’s Teeth yet, Cars aren’t bought in the old hashioned sense anymore, more on finance and PCP’s and simular, I don’t know about you but cleaner more efficient  Transport can’t come soon enough......

Spouting eh! Lovely use of words. Emotive stuff. 

Spanner

5 January 2018
Spanner wrote:

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

 

I understand what you are trying to say but I don't think it is pretty straightforward. Car sales aren’t proportional to salary earned. Disposable income yes. I would consider PCPs, fleet sales, family buys etc. 

If you don't look back at your car after you parked it, you own the wrong car.

5 January 2018
wheels wrote:

Spanner wrote:

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

 

I understand what you are trying to say but I don't think it is pretty straightforward. Car sales aren’t proportional to salary earned. Disposable income yes. I would consider PCPs, fleet sales, family buys etc. 

Agree with what you are saying, but I was not really making a point of exact measure. Affordability and market penetration was where I was aiming (poorly apparently!). Regardless of how a car is purchased or leased, I agree with you absolutely that have to have the disposable income to afford it. Disposable income is difficult to find, and the stats seem to have much political bias (shocking that!).

 Seems as though 6+% of total licence holders buying new cars each year seems pretty good to me by any measure considering how expensive cars are.

Spanner

5 January 2018
Spanner wrote:

wheels wrote:

Spanner wrote:

40m full licence holders. 2.54m new cars pa = 6.35% of the population buy a new car each year. Average car price £27,500 (this is money), and approx after tax, only 30% (ons stats) of the UK take home £27500 pa, it seems that selling a new car each year 6.35% of the total population with licences is pretty impressive. Etc etc etc...

I hope you can see where I am coming from, and I am sure with a lot more research I could easily draw the conclusion that the rate of new car sales is utterly amazing, considering the numbers of People in the uk that can really afford them. Sure there are a large number of fleet sales, but even so, it is incredible that as a nation we can “afford” so many new cars. 

Cloth and pattern are not necessarily aligned, and expectations of an industry to drive new sales into a stretched market are a little ambitious. It would be interesting to understand the level of new car repossessions too.

 

I understand what you are trying to say but I don't think it is pretty straightforward. Car sales aren’t proportional to salary earned. Disposable income yes. I would consider PCPs, fleet sales, family buys etc. 

Agree with what you are saying, but I was not really making a point of exact measure. Affordability and market penetration was where I was aiming (poorly apparently!). Regardless of how a car is purchased or leased, I agree with you absolutely that have to have the disposable income to afford it. Disposable income is difficult to find, and the stats seem to have much political bias (shocking that!).

 Seems as though 6+% of total licence holders buying new cars each year seems pretty good to me by any measure considering how expensive cars are.

But is quoting the average list price of a car against a salary amount a pointless comparison. Very few people actually ever pay out that full cost, it's either deferred, discounted down or both. The car I have just collected has a list of 23k, I will use it for 24 months, 20000 miles at a total cost of £4800.00. so it's the cost to own/use figure that is the comparison against a salary figure. Or did I not read your post correctly.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week