The number of new cars sold in the UK fell 9.3% year-on-year to 161,997 in July – marking a fourth consecutive monthly fall, according to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The biggest fall came from diesel cars, were just 69,157 sales represented a 20.1% fall on the figure recorded in July 2016. As a result its market share fell from 48.5% to 42.5%.
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association suggested work needed to be done on the messaging with diesel cars to ensure consumers were able to distinguish between new, cleaner diesels and older more polluting models: “Following recent government announcements and given the decline in petrol and diesel registrations, clear messages are needed to not cause further confusion to car buyers. It is vital that modern Euro 6 diesel cars are not compared to older diesel vehicles, information surrounding diesel must be clarified for the consumer”.
Petrol car sales also fell slightly – down 3.0% to 83,969. As a result over half of all new car sales in the month were petrol.
The only segment to witness an increase in sales was the alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) market. 8,871 AFVs sold in the month represented a year-on-year jump of almost 65%, and a record 5.5% of the market. The previous record, from June 2017, was 4.4% market share.
Despite this James Broadhead, chief executive officer of Close Brothers Motor Finance, warned manufacturers may still find it a struggle to persuade some customers to go pure electric.
The independent lender found just 15% of drivers would consider buying electric as their next car, in a survey of 2,000 consumer.
Broadhead said: “Despite the growth in electric cars sales, there are still major perception barriers to overcome. The government is taking steps in the right direction to increase the uptake of electric vehicles, but at this rate of change it is unlikely that their zero emissions goal will be reached by 2050. To the delight of all the Jeremy Clarkson fans out there, it’s likely to be a long time before UK consumers fully adopt to electric car technology.”
Sales were down in both fleet (down 10.1% to 89,186) and private (down 6.8% to 67,705) markets.
Ford retained its position as the bestselling manufacturer in the UK in July, despite sales falling 23.9% to 16,934. It’s possible these sales were dampened by the release of the new Fiesta in the month. The Fiesta has traditionally found itself as the best-selling vehicle in the UK, however in July was only 4th.
Volkswagen was the second best-selling brand in the month, with 14,094 (up 0.4% year-on-year), followed by Audi and Mercedes. These were followed by Vauxhall, which sold 11,528 – 41.58% less than the year before.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “The fall in consumer and business confidence is having a knock on effect on demand in the new car market and government must act quickly to provide concrete plans regarding Brexit. While it’s encouraging to see record achievements for alternatively fuelled vehicles, consumers considering other fuel types will have undoubtedly been affected by the uncertainty surrounding the government’s clean air plans.
“It is important to remember that there are no plans to charge drivers using the latest Euro 6 models and no proposed bans for conventional petrol and diesel vehicles for some 23 years. The lower demand in recent months will inevitably mean competition from manufacturers will intensify and it will be a good opportunity for consumers to get a great deal on their next car, with many exciting new models launched in the coming months.”