Private demand and diesel sales decline as new car sales suffer first drop in February since 2011

New car registrations in the UK suffered a drop in February for the first time since 2011, but there was an overall year-to-date increase of 1.8% following January's strong results, according to figures released by the Society of Motoring Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT).

Compared with February 2016, sales dropped 0.3% to 83,115 in what is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year for new car sales, with private demand suffering a 4.4% fall to 36,018 while business registrations also dropped by 5.3% to 1398.

Fleet registrations dominated February 2017 figures, with 45,699 registrations representing a 3.3% rise and there was a huge 48.9% jump in alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) sales in February. In total, 3308 electric, hybrid and hydrogen vehicles were registered. However, AFVs still only have a 4% market share. Petrol registrations were up by 5.8% to 42,826 units, but diesel demand dropped 9.2%.

The motoring market has enjoyed impressive growth in recent years, and there was a record nine-year January UK manufacturing high at the start of 2017. Although these figures show a slight decrease in demand, SMMT boss Mike Hawes expects the market to improve in March.

He said: “February is traditionally one of the quietest months of the year and a steady performance was expected following another year of record growth in 2016.

“We expect to see the market bounce back in March as buyers take advantage of the new 17-plate, as well as the last chance to buy a car eligible for current lower VED rates before they change on 1 April.”

The Ford Fiesta stayed at the top of the best-selling chart for February, with the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Nissan Qashqai completing the top five.

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

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6 March 2017
It would be interesting to know how sales are split within this sector. Presumably most are petro hybrids (which are not really alternative fuel at all) and a negligible amount are hydrogen. Are there any LPG or CNG vehicles in there? Personally I think it would be more interesting if there was a category for zero emission vehicles comprising only battery electric and hydrogen models.

6 March 2017
"diesel demand dropped 9.2%" that's massive. Finally people have woken up to the fact that Car Mags and European Governments weren't right about Diesel being the solution - no matter what.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

6 March 2017
Finally - great news...long may it continue. Although I'm sure the press will keep trying to push derv on the masses by recommending them (with the Auto industry backing..), who would seriously now buy (privately) a new diesel car? I guess only those who intend selling in 2-3 years and don't care about resale or those who will keep it for its life and never go near a city....

6 March 2017
Had ordered car for 1st March but after being offered £500 discount for car to be registered 28.2.17, I'm included in those Feb registration figures.

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