The new car market grew slightly in February, the first time sales had risen year on year following five straight months of decline.
There were 81,969 new cars registered in the UK last month, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a 1.4% increase on 2018. While February is always a quiet month for sales, with buyers often waiting until the new plates in March, the rise will provide some cheer to the struggling car industry. So far, new car registrations in 2019 are down 0.6% on last year.
Notably, while diesels continued to decline in February – with a 14.3% drop in year-on-year registrations – sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were up 34%, the 22nd consecutive month of growth.
A total of 4521 AFVs – among them electric and plug-in hybrid models – were registered in February, including 731 full electric cars. However, in the four months since the government removed grants for plug-in hybrid models, sales have only increased by 1.7% – compared with 29.5% growth in the first 10 months of 2018.
SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “If the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed.
“The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive, measures are needed, else ambitions will never be realised.”
The Ford Fiesta was again the UK’s best-selling new car in February, with 3399 registrations. The Ford Focus was second, with 2537 registrations, just ahead of the Volkswagen Golf (2410) and Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2059).