New car sales continue to decline in March

New car registrations declined by 3.4% year-on-year in March, with political uncertainty and the continuing slump in demand for diesel offsetting the usual sales boost due to the introduction of new 19 plates.

March is traditionally a key month for car sales because of the plate change. This year a total of 458,054 cars were registered, compared to 474,069 last year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The bulk of the decline again came from the slump in demand for diesel-engined cars, with registrations of such vehicles falling 21.4% to 120,677. By contrast, registrations of petrol cars rose by 5.1% to 312,075, with demand for Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) increasing by 7.6% to 25,302.

Notably, sales of superminis rose by 4.3%, with the category accounting for 33.7% of all registrations in the UK. The Ford Fiesta remains the best-selling car in the UK, with 14,676 registrations in March, and 23,474 so far in 2019. The Vauxhall Corsa was second on the best-seller list, with the Volkswagen Golf third.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “March is a key barometer for the new car market, so this fall is of clear concern. While manufacturers continue to invest in exciting models and cutting-edge tech, for the UK to reap the full benefits of these advances, we need a strong market that encourages the adoption of new technology.”

Hawes again said that the car industry “urgently” needs an end to the political uncertainty caused by the current Brexit situation.