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.”