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New car sales set for a turbulent 2019

Published 07 January 2019

The number of new cars registered on UK roads decreased by nearly seven per cent in 2018 - and this fall in demand could continue for the next 12 months, experts have warned.

Tough new WLTP emissions tests, uncertainty around diesel legislation and Brexit have all contributed to the reduction in new cars being bought over the last 12 months - the second year of falling sales.

The figures, released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), reveal that UK car registrations fell by 6.8 per cent in 2018 to 2.37 million cars, with diesel vehicles being hit hardest - seeing a drop of 26.3 per cent down to 750,165 units.

Alex Buttle, director of, says certainty around Brexit is required for the clouds over the new car market to be lifted.

"If there's one manufacturing industry left in the UK that’s big enough to influence a smart Brexit decision, it would be the car industry"
"It doesn't appear that anyone in Parliament is truly listening or caring about the impact on the automotive industry..."

"Unfortunately it doesn't appear that anyone in Parliament is truly listening or caring about the impact on the automotive industry as they squabble for supremacy."

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars saw an increase in registrations of more than 20 per cent, rising to 141,270. Meanwhile, sales of petrol cars were up by 8.7 per cent compared to 2017, with more than 1.47 million sold in 2018.

The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) is keen to focus on these figures - blaming the new fuel economy tests for the otherwise alarming numbers, saying 2019 should be a better year for sales.

"The substantial growth of the plug-in electric vehicles sector is encouraging and the improving supply dynamics of the EV market are likely to drive innovation and growth in the sector," says the NFDA's director, Sue Robinson.

“We look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store as the effects of WLTP ease, stock supply improves, and the political environment becomes more stable."

While demand for new cars fell in 2018, the SMMT reports that the market remains solid, with volumes on a part with the rolling 15-year average, while the UK new car market remains the second highest in the EU - behind Germany.


Engineer Andy    on 8 January 2019

Don't blame Brexit, blame the manufacturers (and mostly the Europeans [mainly German]) for not being ready for the change to WLTP certification by virtue of them having SOOOOO many trim variants on their (already large) ranges of cars.

Notably the Japanese and Koreans (as usual) got ready well before it came into effect and haven't been bothered that much, if at all.

Once this is all sorted out, and the fallout from Dieselgate is finished (including city bans on pre Euro 4 petrol and Euro 6 diesel cars) , then sales will be back to normal, unless a recession comes around (that wouldn't be Brexit-related, as many countries seem to have peaked from an economic pov for the moment).

Edited by Engineer Andy on 08/01/2019 at 21:01

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