New car sales in Britain fell for the first time in six years in 2017, on plummeting demand for diesel-powered vehicles and as Brexit-fuelled inflation hit spending, data showed today.
Total sales dropped 5.7 percent to 2.54 million vehicles, the first annual drop since 2011 as consumers ditched diesel cars for automobiles seen as more environmentally-friendly, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said in a statement.
“The decline in the new car market is concerning but it’s important to remember demand remains at historically high levels,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “Falling business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly taking a toll, however, and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car.”
Hawes added: “Despite the overall decline, new car registrations remain high, with the market still the second biggest in the EU, behind Germany.” Sales of new diesel vehicles slumped 17.1 percent last year compared with 2016 on UK government plans to improve air quality.
This was offset by a 2.7-percent gain in new registrations for petrol cars and a 34.8 percent surge in hybrids and electric vehicles combined.
“UK consumers buy more plug-in cars than anywhere else in Europe,” said the SMMT, which has been lobbying hard for a Brexit deal that safeguards the key UK car industry in terms of vehicles both bought and manufactured in the UK.
SMMT president Tony Walker recently said that uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union was taking its toll, as he called for a transitional deal with no time limits to help the key car industry better prepare. The Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May wants a Brexit implementation period of about two years after Britain’s planned departure in March 2019.
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, a drop in sterling — making imported goods more expensive — has pushed inflation up to more than 3.0 percent, placing a squeeze on household incomes. (AFP) SMJ
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.