UK car sales see first fall since 2011
There was a 35-per-cent increase in electric vehicle sales.
There were about 2.5 million cars registered, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), was down 5.7 per cent from 2016, while diesel sales fell 17.1 per cent as higher taxes and pollution fears weakened demand.
Carbon dioxide emissions from new cars rose for the first time in 20 years, up 0.8 per cent on 2016.
SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said the fall in diesel sales was “the prime cause” of the increase in emissions and that the latest low-emission diesel vehicles were “vital” in meeting climate-change targets.
He said London’s plans to ban the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars after 2040, along with a car tax rise on new diesel models in November’s budget, had reduced demand.
This contrasted with the approach of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who funded clean air plans while reaffirming her commitment to the diesel car industry, battered by the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal.
He predicted that car sales would continue to fall by 5 to 7 per cent for 2018 amid Brexit-linked uncertainty.
Hawes attributed the declining sales to falling business and consumer confidence, but said 2015 and 2016 measured record sales.
“We need to put it into context. This was still the third best year in a decade and the sixth best ever,” Hawes said.
High levels of particulates and nitrogen oxide pollution from diesel engines has been blamed for an air quality crisis and thousands of suspected premature deaths a year in Britain.
He said the newest diesel engines were roughly equivalent to petrol, adding that the shift away from diesel would make cars more polluting in terms of carbon emissions, due to diesel vehicles normally consuming less fuel than petrol cars.
While alternative-fuel vehicles increased their share of the market to 4.7 per cent with sales up 35 per cent to around 119,000, approximately 13,600 were fully electric, rather than hybrid vehicles. The average new car sold last year emitted 120.9g of CO2 per km, the first rise since 1997.
Hawes added: “2017 has undoubtedly been a very volatile year and the lacklustre economic growth means that we expect a further weakening in the market for 2018. The upside for consumers, however, is some very, very competitive deals.”
He said confusion about the future of diesel had caused a backlash.
Diesel vehicles produce the overwhelming majority of nitrogen oxide gases coming from Britain’s roads.
Trade Centre UK car showroom in the English West Midlands. Picture credit: Wikimedia