The slump in demand for diesel-engined cars has continued to hit the UK new car market, which declined by 15.7% year on year in March.
Preliminary figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that demand for diesel cars was down by just over 37%. By comparison, sales of alternative fuelled vehicles – including electric cars – was up by more than 5%, and demand for petrol cars increased by just under 1%.
The decline of 15.7%, which is substantially higher than the 2.8% year-on-year drop in February, is partly because March 2017 was a record month for UK new car sales, ahead of April's change in Vehicle Excise Duty.
The March figures mean that the new car market declined by around 12% in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. SMMT boss Mike Hawes said that while March's results aren't a surprise given the unusual surge in registrations seen in March 2017, the continued decline highlighted a dent in consumer and business confidence.
"A thriving new car market is essential to the overall health of our economy," he said. "This means creating the right economic conditions for all types of consumers to have the confidence to buy new vehicles. All technologies, regardless of fuel type, have a role to play in helping improve air quality whilst meeting our climate change targets, so government must do more to encourage consumers to buy new vehicles rather than hang onto their older, more polluting vehicles.”
The UK Government's new diesel tax hike was introduced this month and requires new models that drink from the black pump to conform to the Euro 6d emissions standard, which isn't due to come into force until 2020. No new models currently meet that requirement, meaning every new diesel car has been hit with the rise.
Diesel now represents 33.5% of the new car market, a decrease of 10.5% compared with this period in 2017. Meanwhile, petrol now accounts for 61.4% of new car sales, up from 52% last year, contributing to a rise in average CO2 emissions for new cars in Britain that first started in February.
Things are more familiar in the bestselling car model list, with longstanding chart-topper, the Ford Fiesta, receiving 19,272 (32,808 in the year-to-date) registrations to the second placed Volkswagen Golf's 13,966 (21,203 year-to-date). The Nissan Qashqai holds onto third with 12,018 registrations (16,914 year-to-date), but the Vauxhall Corsa overtakes the Ford Focus for fourth with 11,718 sales to the Focus's 9403.
Additional reporting by Sam Sheehan