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Petrol becomes the top fleet fuel in January, SMMT data shows

Diesel dropped to around a third of new car registrations in the UK in January, even taking second place even among fleets, despite a much slower rate of decline, according to the latest SMMT data.

Diesel Nozzle

Fleets aren’t deserting diesel as quickly as private buyers.

Car registration data for January shows the market as a whole declined 10,949 units (-6.3%) year-on-year, though most of that was down to a weaker retail market, down 7,298 units (9.5%).

Fleet registrations fared better, at 89,513 units (-1.8%) while business registrations dropped to 4,686 units (-29.7%). Overall, fleet and business registrations accounted for 54.7% and 2.9% respectively of the total market, compared to 52.2% and 3.8% in January 2017.

Forthcoming changes to company car tax and vehicle excise duty for diesels, due in April, are not causing a rush for registrations, as appeared to happen before VED reforms last year. Diesel volumes overall were down 25.6% year-on-year in January, taking 35.9% of the total (58,703 units) compared to 45.2% (78,905 units) in 2017.

However, fleets appear to be taking a more cautious approach. Diesel accounted for 45.7% of fleet registrations in January, slightly behind petrol at 48.5% but almost double its share of the private market where only around a quarter of new cars had a diesel engine.

The results come as some within the industry have accused the government of creating a CO2 problem and potentially driving up fleet running costs by appearing to demonise diesel engines. Others have suggested that it’s over-incentivising a move into plug-in hybrids, which real-world data has shown can be less efficient than a petrol engine if they are deployed incorrectly.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.