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Demand for new cars hits record low

Published 06 January 2020

The number of new cars registered on UK roads dropped to 2.3 million last year - the lowest figure since 2013.

The figures, released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this morning, reveal that UK new car registrations fell by 2.4 per cent in 2019, with experts blaming mixed messages on clean air zones as well as ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

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Registrations of new diesel cars were hit hardest in 2019, with a drop of nearly 22 per cent compared to 2018. Plug-in hybrids also decreased by nearly 18 per cent, while sales of electric cars increased by 144 per cent from 15,510 to 37,850. Hybrid and mild-hybrid cars also saw a rise in popularity.

Despite being a gloomy year for registrations, some manufacturers bucked the trend. Budget brand Dacia saw a rise in popularity of more than 28 per cent, while sales of MG models increased by 44 per cent. Lexus, Porsche and SEAT also enjoyed a strong year.

The brands hit hardest include SsangYong (down 29.9 per cent), Smart (47.2 per cent) and Alfa Romeo (17.9 per cent).

It was good news across the board in December, too, with a 3.4 per cent increase in the number of new cars on UK roads - up to 148,997 from 144,089.

Despite this, the SMMT is calling for more supportive policies to give people the confidence to buy new cars.

"A third year of decline for the UK new car market is a significant concern for industry and the wider economy," said the SMMT's chief executive, Mike Hawes. "Political and economic uncertainty, and confusing messages on clean air zones have taken their toll on buyer confidence, with demand for new cars at a six-year low."

Comments

gavsmit    on 6 January 2020

New cars cost way too much. That's it.

Falkirk Bairn    on 7 January 2020

The future of new car sales to private buyers, at least, seems bleak.

Penalties by the EU for emissions over 95 mean fines that are passed on to car buyers.

Looks like £4,000 added to a Subaru - their range is all petrol + 1 mild hybrid. Their sales were down 25% on 2018 so 2020 will be a real challenge to sell their current range - reliable or not putting £4K on the price is a lot.

hissingsid    on 7 January 2020

New cars cost way too much. That's it.

That explains why Dacia are bucking the downward trend with sales up by over 28% in 2019.

If they offered automatic transmission across their range, their sales would rocket, but it won't happen because those sales would be at the expense of their parent company Renault's more expensive cars. Another example of manufacturers selling us what they think we should have, not what we want.

signman    on 7 January 2020

Up until around 2014 driving a new car was exciting because of the extra luxuries being added to more models like a heated steering wheel or auto-wipers. Since then the luxuries have stalled and it is the rise of more and more 'safety' systems that a new car driver is having to pay for.
It is just not exciting to pay for driver fatigue alerts or whatever at the expense of losing the cooled seats my 2016 £30 VED Kia has , so it will be kept for it's full 7 year warranty as I chose not to replace it for a new one which also costs £145 VED and lands me with a ton more depreciation in these diesel confused times.

hissingsid    on 7 January 2020

When I was shopping in 2016 for a new petrol two wheel drive crossover with a proper torque converter automatic transmission, the choice was very limited. I ended up with a Mazda CX-3 which was the best of a bad bunch.

I have extended Mazda's uncompetitive three year warranty and plan to keep the car indefinitely. Covering less than 5,000 miles per annum it should last for years, hopefully until the economies of scale enable me to go electric.

Dag Hammar    on 7 January 2020

As a matter of interest, did you consider the Hyundai ix20 or the equivalent Kia Venga ? Both of those had torque converter autos if auto is what you required. And a longer warranty.

hissingsid    on 8 January 2020

As a matter of interest, did you consider the Hyundai ix20 or the equivalent Kia Venga ? Both of those had torque converter autos if auto is what you required. And a longer warranty.

I did not consider either of the above, as although retired I am not yet ready for the geriatric ward. I wanted a driver's car with a lively performance, and the CX-3 although far from perfect fulfils that requirement.

The latest ix20 and Venga automatics are no longer torque converter.

Dag Hammar    on 9 January 2020

As a matter of interest, did you consider the Hyundai ix20 or the equivalent Kia Venga ? Both of those had torque converter autos if auto is what you required. And a longer warranty.

I did not consider either of the above, as although retired I am not yet ready for the geriatric ward. I wanted a driver's car with a lively performance, and the CX-3 although far from perfect fulfils that requirement.

The latest ix20 and Venga automatics are no longer torque converter.

Hence why I wrote “had torque converter autos” as opposed to “have” On a separate note I am not sure if the i20 and the Venga are still in production, not that I am interested in one as my motoring needs are sorted.

oldroverboy.    on 7 January 2020

It isn't just the cost of the car, Newer cars with all the electronic safety stuff, cameras, lane departure, etc are more expensive to insure as well. £17.000 mgzs £226 fully comp £17995 mg hs with MG pilot suite of safety aids £462 ...

That's double!

Edited by oldroverboy. on 07/01/2020 at 13:18

Engineer Andy    on 7 January 2020

In addition to the 'reasons' the SMMT gave in the report and to add to those given by Backroomers, I would also add that the sheer complexity and knock-on reliability issues, expense of maintenance (things like replacing LED light clusters at huge expense because you can't just replace a bulb, for example) and ongoing security problems with keyless entry have put off many a wannabe buyer from taking the plunge.

Until these issues are resolved, and prices come down, I won't be buying a new car. My 14yo one is going just fine and has none of these issues.

Edited by Engineer Andy on 07/01/2020 at 13:46

conman    on 7 January 2020

I own 2 cars a 2017 Dacia Sandero top of range with satnav, cruise control, rear reversing sensors. returning 45 mpg around town and cost £8500 new. and has a free 5 year warranty.
my other car is a 2016 ,bought at 6 months old with 3000 miles. 134 ps Astra Nav Elite sports tourer which returns over 70 mpg on a run, why on earth would I want to pay a fortune for an electric car and have to queue up for 40 minutes to charge it after around 150- 175 miles. On a youtube video a person recharged their electric car to travel 140 mile at a cost of £12.50, same cost as my Astra so where's the savings. and don't say it is saving the enviroment when massive lithium batteries are used in its construction.
I will not be buying an electric car for the foreseeable future and will look on in amazement as people que up to use the overpriced charging points

Marcus T.    on 9 January 2020

Many factors are causing this. People are looking to see what may or may not happen with penalising diesel and possibly petrol cars in the near future. Some cities and towns are talking about bans, but until things pan out drivers are holding off from any changes. That, the cost of new vehicles, especially EV's, will have an effect. Some may want to switch to EV's but find the lack of charging infrastructure, or limited range for them unsuitable. I will be driving my four year old diesel 4x4 for at least another 6-8 years, until an affordable! 4x4 EV, with decent space, towing ability and good range is on the market.The market is in a state of flux and i think it will stay like this for some time.

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