UK car registrations fell almost 7% year-on-year to 2.37m units in 2018, with a near 30% drop in diesel registrations accounting for the most marked decline in the market.
Despite the drop - down from a 21st century peak of 2.69m in 2016 - the number of registrations is still in line with the UK’s 10-year sales average, and maintains the UK’s position as the second largest new car market in Europe, behind Germany.
December’s figures confirmed diesel registrations have now fallen for 21 consecutive months; by contrast, petrol registrations rose 8.7% for the year, while plug-in hybrid and electric registrations rose 20.9%.
Underlining the impact of the diesel collapse, the 30% fall on registrations in 2018 compared to 2017 equates to 316,000 registrations - more than the drop in total 2018 registrations from the 2017 figure of 2.54m.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) boss Mike Hawes also highlighted other factors that impacted the UK car market, including falling consumer confidence in big ticket purchases as a result of economic uncertainty, issues arising from the Brexit negotiations and the supply shortage in the wake of WLTP economy certification, which lowered some manufacturers’ registrations by almost 50% in September.
“The belief is that consistent messaging and ongoing demonstration of the benefits of the latest diesels could unlock some of the market,” said Hawes. “The evidence is clear: some diesel owners are holding on to their cars rather than replacing them, and if we can bring the facts home to them, then we would hope they will replace them with confidence.”