In Depth

New car registrations fall for the second year in a row

Diesels drop by 30% but UK remains the second largest market in Europe

The motoring industry had another bumpy ride in 2018, with vehicle registrations falling substantially for the second consecutive year. 

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that 2.36 million new vehicles were registered in 2018, a 6.8% decline over the previous year’s total of 2.54 million. 

The figures mark the steepest decline since the financial crisis of 2008, when new car registrations fell by 11%, the BBC reports.

The number of diesel cars has declined for 21 consecutive months, with registrations falling by around 30% over the course of 2018, says Autocar

In contrast, petrol registrations rose by 8.7% over the past 12 months, while hybrid and fully-electric vehicles increased by 20.9%, the magazine notes.  

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said the fall in registrations posed a “major concern” as the Government’s stance towards diesels and reduced financial incentives for electric car buyers was causing “turbulence” in the market. 

“The industry is facing ever-tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand, so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers,” he said.

Despite the decline in numbers, the UK sits behind Germany as the “second largest new car market in Europe”, says Autocar.

The SMMT’s figures represent vehicles that have been registered by car showrooms rather than the number of cars bought by customers, says Auto Express

Car dealers often “pre-register” cars before selling them so they can be “accounted for in these figures”, though many of these vehicles will remain unsold until the following year, the magazine notes. 

What were the UK’s most registered cars?

These are the vehicles with the most registrations over the past 12 months, according to the SMMT. 

Though these do not reflect overall car sales, they do provide a good indication of which models are the most popular among buyers: 

  1. Ford Fiesta - 95,892 registered
  2. Volkswagen Golf - 64,829
  3. Vauxhall Corsa - 52,915
  4. Nissan Qashqai - 50,546
  5. Ford Focus - 50,492
  6. Volkswagen Polo - 45,149
  7. Mini - 44,904
  8. Mercedes-Benz A-Class - 43,527
  9. Ford Kuga - 40,398
  10. Kia Sportage 35,567

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