Concerns are growing in the auto industry as new car registrations plunged in March, according to figures from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Preliminary data shows the market for new cars in the UK fell by 15.7% compared to 2017 figures, the biggest fall since the 2009 financial collapse.

Registrations for alternative fuel cars rose 5.7%, but this was not enough to offset the 37% decline in diesel car registrations. Petrol car registration remained flat.

March 2017 was a record high for the auto industry, but the size of the fall in registrations is a major cause for concern in the industry as it prepares for Brexit the resultant increase in red tape and trade barriers. The size of the decline in March may be an outlier, but new car registrations have now been falling steadily for 12 months, and manufacturers are starting to worry that the decline may be a long term trend as economic and political uncertainty and confusion over air quality plans continue to affect confidence.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said:
“March’s decline is not unexpected given the huge surge in registrations in the same month last year. Despite this, the market itself is relatively high with the underlying factors in terms of consumer choice, finance availability and cost of ownership all highly competitive. Consumer and business confidence, however, has taken a knock in recent months and a thriving new car market is essential to the overall health of our economy.

“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.”

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