Mixed messages blamed as car sales plummet for seventh month

Mixed messages blamed as car sales plummet for seventh month
Mixed messages blamed as car sales plummet for seventh month

New car sales in the UK fell for the seventh month in a row last month, dropping more than 12 per cent on last year’s figures.

“Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK”

Mike Hawes, SMMT

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that overall new car registrations fell by 12.2 per cent in October and, as in previous months, a loss in confidence in diesel was the main factor.

While petrol saw a small (2.7 per cent) rise in sales and registrations of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV) jumped 36.9 per cent, diesel sales fell 29.9 per cent year on year. Although AFV sales are rising rapidly the total of 6,021 cars registered is a drop in the ocean compared with the 88,888 diesel models.

The SMMT and drivers themselves have blamed confusion over government policy around diesel for much of the decline.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new car market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel.”

Confusing policy

His comments are backed up by new consumer research which found that a fifth of drivers are holding off replacing their cars until there is more clarity on policy around petrol and diesel models, including clean air zones and potential bans.

Overall, less than half of drivers questioned (47 per cent) fully understood the Government’s plan to ban the sale of purely petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

The poll, on behalf of carwow, also found that 17 per cent said concerns over diesel pollution had put them off buying another diesel, despite industry assurances over the cleanliness of the latest Euro 6 engines.

Mike Hawes added: “Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK.”

Sales of alternatively fulled cars were up 37 per cent over last October

His concern was echoed by Simon Benson, director of motoring services at AA Cars, whose own survey of drivers found one in five worried that future legislation will devalue their current car.

He said: “An ongoing stream of negative press and blanket legislation around diesel and petrol vehicles has made UK drivers rather jumpy when it comes to buying new cars.

“2040 might be a long way in the future, but the ban on sales of petrols and diesels helps add to the picture that the days of emitting vehicles are numbered. More needs to be done to improve the picture of cleaner diesel models – or we risk talking the new car market into deeper trouble.”

Call for clarity

Amid the confusion over what will be banned and when some drivers have given up trying to follow policy and a quarter say that future directives won’t have any impact on their next choice of car. And a third believe that, regardless of recent announcements, they will still be driving conventionally fuelled cars come 2040.

Karen Hilton, head of sales and operations at carwow which commissioned the poll, commented: “There has been a lot of confusion for consumers about what action, if any, they should be taking with regards to their cars in reaction to new clean air policies.

“Now is the time for greater education and real clarity. Manufacturers have stepped up to the plate, not only producing lesser polluting diesel models but in launching scrappage schemes; but conflicting announcements and exaggerated reports on the future of diesel over the past 12 months had already dented consumer confidence.

“It’s now time for central government to clarify plans and the predicted impact of any new directives so that consumers feel confident in making a decision about their next car which won’t leave them out of pocket or feeling unfairly targeted.”

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