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Fleet registrations down 14% in November as new car market faces first annual fall since 2011

Fleet and overall new car registrations fell for the eighth consecutive month in November as falling business and consumer confidence and concerns over future tax treatment of diesel cars hit home.

UK new car demand fell 11.2% in November to 163,541 units.

Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations fell 11.2% to 163,541 units last month while fleet registrations were down 14.4% to 85,007 units. Sub-25 ‘Business’ registrations plummeted 33.6% to 4,469 units and private demand fell 5.1% to 74,065.

Diesel registrations were once again hit hard with a fall of 30.6% to 61,730 units – giving them a market share of just 37.7% compared to 48.3% in November 2016 – following months of speculation over planned tax changes, as announced in the Autumn Budget.

Conversely petrol demand was up 5.0% to 92,944 units, ensuring that petrol registrations now make up over half (56.8%) of the new car market – compared to 48.1% for November last year.

And registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles rose 33.1% to 8,867 units, equating to 5.4% of the market – up from 3.6% last year.

Year to date, overall registrations declined 5.0% to a total of 2,388,144 – putting the market on course for its first annual downturn since 2011. Fleet registrations were down 3.9% to 1,228,967 units, with ‘Business’ registrations down 5.4% to 92,226 units and private demand down 6.3% to 1,066,951 units.

Diesel demand for the first 11 months of the year declined 16.1% to 1,008,267 units while petrol rose 3.1% to 1,268,641 – giving the fuel over a 50% share (53.1%) of the market – and registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles were up 34.6% to 111,236.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “An eighth month of decline in the new car market is a major concern, with falling business and consumer confidence exacerbated by ongoing anti-diesel messages from government. Diesel remains the right choice for many drivers, not least because of its fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.

“The decision to tax the latest low-emission diesels is a step backwards and will only discourage drivers from trading in their older, more polluting cars. Given fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality, penalising the latest, cleanest diesels is counterproductive and will have detrimental environmental and economic consequences.”

Simon Benson, director of motoring services at AA Cars, added: “The SMMT warned last month that if the Government failed to intervene the new car market would continue to suffer, and sadly that proves to have been the case today.

“Anyone holding out for a confidence boost from the Budget will have been sorely disappointed, as the Chancellor’s statement only served to further exacerbate the problem.

“What consumers really need now is clarity. Widespread confusion has hurt the market over the course of the year, so drivers need clear information about what charges or other restrictions both the latest, Euro 6 diesels, and older vehicles might face so they can make better informed car buying decisions.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.