Diesel downturn proves drag as new car sales plummet

A decline in demand for diesel cars has triggered a fall in UK car sales for an eighth successive month. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
A decline in demand for diesel cars has triggered a fall in UK car sales for an eighth successive month. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
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Sales of new cars have tumbled for a seventh consecutive month amid a slump in consumer confidence with diesel sales falling by nearly a third.

Industry figures have revealed that just over 158,000 motors were registered UK-wide during October, down 12.2 per cent on the same month last year. In Scotland, they fell by 14.7 per cent.

Trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) blamed a fall in consumer confidence for the decline, prompting the industry to call for help in the Chancellor’s upcoming Budget. Demand for diesel cars continued to drop sharply – falling 29.9 per cent in October and 14.9 per cent for the year so far.

Petrol models were up 2.7 per cent last month, while alternatively-fuelled vehicles rose 36.9 per cent to achieve a market share of 5.2 per cent.

Governments on both sides of the Border have recently announced plans to ban the sale of all conventional diesel and petrol powered cars over the next couple of decades in a bid to meet European Union limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Ministers are also considering funding measures to cut pollution with a tax on new diesel vehicles.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new car market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel.

“Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low-emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK.

“We urge the government to use the forthcoming autumn Budget to restore stability to the market, encouraging the purchase of the latest low-emission vehicles, as fleet renewal is the fastest and most effective way of addressing air quality concerns.”

Alex Buttle of website Motorway.co.uk claimed the latest figures made “depressing reading for the car industry”.

He said: “Diesel’s market share is plummeting and consumers aren’t listening to rhetoric about cleaner diesel models, however much the industry drums on about it. The damage has been done.

“While it’s understandable the SMMT is not deserting diesel and urging the government to act to reassure consumers that new diesel cars will be safe from toxin tax punishment, is this a lost cause?”

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY Item Club, said: “It is notable that private sales have been the weakest sector over the first ten months of 2017. This is consistent with the overall softness in consumer spending over the year so far, particularly a reluctance to make major buys.”

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